July 28, 2014 | Leave a Comment
To celebration our 25th anniversary, we are sharing the stories of how we’ve been building forward in Marin, San Francisco and the Peninsula for 25 years. Learn more about our anniversary here.
A few years ago, Miguel and Alejandra were renting a small townhome in Marin County for their growing family with no yard for the children to play. Miguel, a Marin County social worker and Alejandra, a stay-at-home mom, thought homeownership was out of reach and they worried that having another child might get them kicked out of their rental which capped the number of residents allowed per unit. Then they heard about Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.
During the height of the recession in 2009, we figured out a way to continue to provide affordable homeownership opportunities to working families, while also addressing neighborhood blight. We launched our Neighborhood Revitalization Program to purchase and renovate foreclosed homes and sell them to hard-working families at affordable rates.
While this differed from Habitat’s traditional model of building homes from the ground up, the opportunity to secure and renovate homes affordably using volunteer labor was certainly in line with our mission to provide a springboard to financial security for working families. Restoring neglected and vacant properties for neighborhoods was icing on the cake.
“The housing downturn left a devastating impact to families and communities – but through the Neighborhood Revitalization Program we were able to turn lemons into lemonade by acquiring vacant, blighted foreclosed properties and rehabilitating them by and with families and the community,” said Deven Richardson, director of real estate development at Habitat Greater San Francisco.
Buoyed by a $500,000 matching grant from the City of Menlo Park to acquire and rehabilitate 5 bank-owned homes, we kicked off this program, which ultimately bought and renovated 19 homes for 19 new Habitat families in Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, San Rafael and Novato, where Alejandra and Miguel would buy their family’s first home.
Menlo Park’s initial commitment triggered a wave of support from other municipalities, banks, community and religious organizations. The cities of East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Novato and San Rafael approved more than $1.5 million in funding for the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, while the county of San Mateo kicked in $120,000. Local banks put in more than $250,000 and Menlo Park Presbyterian Church contributed $150,000.
Thomas Peters, president and CEO of the Marin Community Foundation was quoted in an October 2011 article in the Marin Independent Journal about why the foundation chose to support the program with an additional $200,000 on top of the $250,000 they’d already committed to Habitat Greater San Francisco.
“This is … not just providing housing for people working and contributing here in Marin, but it’s also affordable housing as a revitalization force within our cities and towns,” he said.
Before the Neighborhood Revitalization program, Habitat had never built or renovated a home in Marin County. While many families lost their homes during the recession, through the Neighborhood Revitalization program, Habitat was able to provide new homeownership for Alejandra and Miguel, plus 18 other families.
“Not many Marin County employees have the opportunity to live and work in the same county,” said Miguel. “Many have to travel more than an hour each way. I on the other hand have a short commute which allows me to spend time with my family and also volunteer with different organizations in Novato. Owning a home has made a difference in our lives in knowing our children can safely play in our yard.”
July 16, 2014 | Leave a Comment
What do customers say about the ReStore? “I love this store, it’s like heaven!” When you shop at the ReStore, you help us raise funds for homes—which is why we have a strict no-haggling policy. That doesn’t mean there aren’t tricks to scoring an extra deal, though! Shopping at the ReStore is a treasure hunt – and a bit of a competition – to find the perfect piece at a best price. Sometimes, it can feel overwhelming. To give you an insider’s perspective on how to win at the ReStore, our staff and volunteers put our heads together and came up with these tips just for you:
We do our monthly markdowns at the beginning of the month, so full-price products become 25% off, 50% off becomes 75% off…and more and more. The color of the item’s price tag indicates its discount. Be sure to ask the cashier for a “cheat sheet” when you come in. We think of it as a treasure map to savings.
Make 10 purchases over $25 dollars (one per day), and you get to shop our monthly markdowns (see #1) a day early. This way, you beat the rush and secure that mid-century modern credenza you’ve been watching for an additional 25% percent off before anyone else does.
Volunteers who help out for at least 50 hours at the ReStore get just some of our appreciation in the form of a 20% off discount. This 20% off is in addition to any other discounts (see above)! Volunteers also get to see the product as it comes in, but there’s a catch to keep things fair for customers: all new items must be on the sales floor for at least a full business day before volunteers or staff members can purchase them.
We announce upcoming sales, overstock alerts, favorite new items and special discount days for groups like teachers, veterans and seniors via these channels. For example, if you follow us on any of these, you know that we got 250 brand new lighting fixtures from Mars Lighting in San Francisco. We also surprise our followers with coupons and promotions, but you’ve got to stay in loop to get them!
We’re at farmers markets and trade shows all over the area, and we’re usually giving away coupons or raffling off gift certificates. You can also join the San Carlos Adventure Run to score coupons, or attend an in-store event for more goodies. Like our Facebook page for these updates.
We unload new items every day. It’s common to see our regular customers in the store every week… sometimes every day. While we have big plans to make our current inventory more accessible to our customers, for now we’re just a hardworking team of dedicated volunteers and staff doing our best to keep up with the incredible volume of donations we receive (everyday, our receiving area fills to the ceiling with donations, we clean and price and move them to the floor…and it fills to the ceiling again. Good problem to have!). We want our shoppers to have a fantastic experience at the store, and for now the best way is to come in often to see if what we have is just what you’ve been looking for.
June 25, 2014 | Leave a Comment
Why I Build is a blog series from Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco community members–volunteers, donors, staff, homeowners and more–about what we do, why we’re here, and why we build. Volunteers share why they signed up to build homes at Habitat Terrace for our first annual Stephen Blake Jacoby Memorial Build With Pride.
“I wanted a volunteer experience different from the work I do, more physical. I came specifically for Build with Pride to do that while meeting other gay and lesbian people.” -Barbara
“I was just so moved by Steve Jacoby’s story, and learning that he passed from AIDS like so many of my generation. I’ve committed my career to housing, and this brings together my queer politics with affordable housing advocacy to help others.” – Scott
“I had volunteer before in south city, it’s great way to give back to community. I like knowing it’s hands-on, and leaving knowing what I accomplished and that someone is going to live in this house. I love that it’s a pride build—a great opportunity to meet like-minded people with similar values.” – Meesha
“I came out with Hyatt Pride!” – Cecelia
“Since moving to SF a year ago, I’ve realized how drastically unequal housing is and how many hard-working people can’t compete. During Pride season, we’re working towards equality, and it’s important that as the LGBT community marches towards equality, we are also working to recognize the inequality that still exist in our environment and working to fix it.” – DJ
“As a longtime volunteer, I do this to contribute. I’m retired, there’s nothing better to do than give back and I love building. 30 years ago when I started working in construction, I never thought I’d see something like a Build with Pride for my community.” – Will
“I moved here a year ago, wanted to get involved to know San Francisco better. I’ve always been supportive of LGBT community, and had made a goal to volunteer seven times in San Francisco. This was a dual opportunity to both giving back and support the LGBT community.” – Catie
“I’ve volunteered before and thought it was a great idea to come for Pride.” -Huy
“What else would I do?” - Erin (construction manager)
June 19, 2014 | 3 Comments
Stephen Blake Jacoby, the first elected board president of Habitat San Francisco, oversaw the first full meeting of the newly formed organization in September 1991. But before the next meeting he had passed from complications with AIDS, on Oct. 5, 1991. His legacy today includes more than 210 homes built, free public financial education classes and a burgeoning neighborhood cleanup and revitalization program by Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco. Though he was a critical player in building forward to bring the Habitat for Humanity movement to San Francisco, he never got to see the fruits of that effort.
We rediscovered Steve Jacoby’s story through carefully preserved meeting minutes, where the names of those who first formed a steering committee to try to build affordable homes in one of the country’s most expensive real estate markets were carefully recorded. And we wondered, who was this man who led the formation of this organization? And why would he do it if he knew he was dying?
Through investigative research and interviews with former board members and Steve’s family members, we unearthed the story of Steve Jacoby, founder of Habitat San Francisco, which we share below. We’re also pleased to share an op-ed from Steve’s former partner, Steve Jacoby, in The Advocate Magazine online.
Steve Jacoby lived a life of bold action.
Born and raised in Alton, Ill., he grew up dreaming of flying airplanes. He got his pilot’s license at age 15, before he was old enough to get his driver’s license. Steve, throughout his life, was fearless – and flying was one way to demonstrate just how fearless.
Steve’s brother Scott Jacoby said that when their mother would drop Steve at the local airport to practice flying, she’d tell him to call her when he was finished to come pick him up.
“She used to get so mad at him because in the summer he would fly over the house and he would cut the engine and open the door and holler down to my mom, ‘come and get me,’” Scott said.
Steve attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where he trained to fly F-14s, the fighter planes that the bravest, fastest pilots fly. And he was an apprentice Blue Angel – the pilots who dazzle at the annual Air Show above San Francisco Bay.
But he grew four more inches after age 18 topping out at 6-foot-4 – too tall to safely eject from the cramped cockpit of an F-14. After serving his term in the military, he had to trade that dream for a career as a corporate pilot.
Though he loved flying, Steve was ready to leave the military when he did. Those were the days even before ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military policy – thrown out in 2010 – that allowed gay people to join the military as long as they kept their sexual orientation a secret. Though he was a private person, Steve Jacoby believed in honor and doing the right thing, and didn’t think he needed to lie about being gay.
After his service in the military concluded, Steve joined United Airlines as a commercial pilot, flying routes from Los Angeles to Hawaii and Chicago, and later from San Francisco to Asia.
In May 1985, however, when 5,200 pilots walked off the job in opposition of a two-tier salary scale that they saw as unfair to them and new hires, Steve joined many of the 570 trainee pilots in a strike that would last 29 days and cost United Airlines hundreds of millions of dollars.
Steve stood up to represent the trainee pilots and talked about doing what was right. He continued working for United Airlines after the strike ended.
Steve was handy, which may have been what drew him to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Los Angeles (now Habitat for Humanity Greater Los Angeles) building affordable homes. But he also had a deep commitment to service, said Kent Bloom, Steve’s former partner.
When Steve moved to San Francisco in 1989, it was the last major city that did not have a Habitat for Humanity chapter. Even the founder of Habitat for Humanity International, Millard Fuller, in a story recounted through the years at Habitat Greater San Francisco, told San Francisco Habitat founders that Habitat for Humanity wouldn’t work here. Land was too expensive. Housing prices were too high.
Soon after Steve settled into his life in San Francisco, he was placed on medical leave with United Airlines.
He volunteered for Glide Church many afternoons.
But fate brought Steve back to Habitat for Humanity. Steve was a passenger on a flight, heading to Newark to attend a charity benefit when he recognized Rosalynn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter, sitting in first-class.
Steve passed a cocktail napkin to the flight attendant who handed it to Mrs. Carter’s secret service agent. The note said:
‘Dear Mrs. Carter, Thank you and the President’s support for Habitat for Humanity.’
Mrs. Carter waited in the jet bridge to meet him and challenged him to bring Habitat for Humanity to San Francisco.
Several board members who were on the original Habitat San Francisco steering committee remember hearing the story that Steve started Habitat for Humanity San Francisco after meeting Mrs. Carter. It was the tipping point for Steve Jacoby to do at least one more bold thing with his remarkable life.
Steve, along with Tom Cantrell, organized and facilitated a public informational meeting on May 29, 1991 at Stationary Engineers Union Hall on Valencia Street. A 12-member steering committee was formed out of that first meeting and that would become the catalyst for 23 years of Habitat for Humanity in San Francisco.
It’s Steve’s signature on the early meeting minutes from June 28 and July 19 when the steering committee members accomplished the critical and sometimes menial tasks required to start a Habitat for Humanity affiliate like setting up a phone line ($19.95 a month for three months), finding office space and recruiting the 12 board members that were required to meet Habitat International rules.
Steve was elected president of the first board on September 12, 1991 and filed in the meeting minutes from those early days is a personal letter Steve signed four days later to fellow board member David Thompson thanking him for his role in Habitat San Francisco’s formation.
“The addition of your energy to the Steering Committee and dedication to the Habitat philosophy are the seeds of success that will have allowed Habitat for Humanity a foothold in San Francisco,” Steve wrote.
Steve knew he would die from AIDS when he started Habitat for Humanity San Francisco. That was back before the drug treatments that help many of those who contract HIV today to live long, healthy lives. But there was only one approved drug – AZT – back then and it didn’t work for many.
Steve travelled to say goodbye to his parents in Illinois during the same summer that he was charging ahead with Habitat for Humanity San Francisco.
On September 24, 1991 Steve presided over the first meeting of the board as elected president with an agenda including defining directors’ and committee roles. Habitat for Humanity San Francisco would become a reality.
Less than two weeks later, Steve died, October 5, 1991, at his home. Before he died, he told the Habitat board and his former partner that any obituary written about him should include that his cause of death was AIDS. This request was also recorded in Habitat for Humanity’s meeting minutes.
Francis DuBose, an original steering committee and board member of Habitat San Francisco, retired professor at Golden Gate Seminary, who passed away in 2009, said of Steve:
“His spirit was contagious. He inspired the group with his knowledge of Habitat for Humanity, his own previous involvement as a volunteer, his feel for the philosophy behind the movement, and his passion to see it happen, even in San Francisco—the last major city in the country without an affiliate.”
David Thompson, who was elected the next president after Steve, said San Francisco’s Habitat for Humanity was founded by people of many different backgrounds in terms of race, religion and sexual orientation who cared deeply that all of San Francisco could be included in the mission to bring affordable homeownership to people who needed it.
“We decided right from the get-go that they (Habitat for Humanity International) had to come in on our terms or we wouldn’t do it. Those terms had to do with not only nondiscrimination in regards to sexual orientation but also religion,” Thompson said.
Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco proudly carries on that legacy. In tribute to a man who helped this organization establish its values, and who, without his effort, San Francisco may have never had a Habitat for Humanity affiliate.
In remembering Steve’s life, Kent says of Steve: “He just believed in service. And he believed in Habitat for Humanity.”
May 28, 2014 | Leave a Comment
With High Stakes for Habitat 2014 just days away, we asked some of our Young Leaders Circle, hosts of the annual casino night, what they’re most excited for about this year’s event. Don’t worry, you can still buy tickets here to join in the fun.
May 20, 2014 | Leave a Comment
Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco ReStore regular volunteer Tony Gschwend passed away April 10 after a short but difficult battle with cancer. He left a tremendous impact on the many non-profit organizations that he volunteered with – civil engineering firms, youth sports, tutoring – as well as the ReStore. His ReStore colleagues share their memories below.
Tony first came to volunteer at the store after attending a volunteer orientation at Steward’s Chapel in Redwood City. At that point, the ReStore had only been open a few months; Tony saw our need, rolled up his sleeves and jumped right in.
Tony transformed the lighting department from the least productive component of our store to one of our biggest profit centers. He initiated a policy of cleaning and testing each unit before it was put up for sale, a feature that is time consuming, but a strong customer draw.
He saw that customers needed a space to ask questions, so he created a workshop amidst the lighting fixtures to show customers how products worked, and answer their many questions. He loved nothing more than to engage in detailed technical discussions with customers about their electrical problems. Additionally, he loved helping them select fixtures appropriate to their needs. He became the volunteer most asked for by name by customers.
Tony solved problems and taught others to help themselves. He taught staff members and other volunteers how to maintain the department. After Tony stopped volunteering due to health concerns, his volunteer apprentices carried on his work.
Lighting remains one of the ReStore’s most well-kept and highest grossing departments. But the lighting department is more than a fundraising source for building homes, it is a labor of love. Tony created that attitude, and passed it on to the people who carry on his tradition. Processing donations, working with customers, training volunteers—all these things are done with the intention of maintaining his high standards. Most importantly, Tony helped to make everyone’s lives better. Through leadership by example, tremendous energy and strong integrity, he showed all of us how to do our jobs better.
Tony gave us his secret to success in life:
“Find something you are passionate about, turn it into a profession, and you’ll feel like you’ve never worked a day in your life.”
Tony gave the ReStore more than one thousand hours of service. The Restore family was never the same once he walked through our doors and it never will be the same now that he has hung up his blue vest. We are so very grateful that Tony shared some of his passion, skills and commitment with us and we celebrate his remarkable life.
April 11, 2014 | Leave a Comment
Since 2004, over $1 million have been raised for Bay Area Habitat for Humanity affiliates through the Cars for Homes™ vehicle donation program!
To support our Million Dollar Milestone and Earth Day, on April 19th, join us at our San Carlos ReStore to receive a bonus gift and a unique discount at the ReStore when you pledge your car that day. Or, simply donate your vehicle during the month of April or any other time to support as well.
And now for three great reasons why vehicle donations are a smart choice, for you and for your community:
Approximately 30% of the cars donated to Cars for Homes™ are sold either for reusable parts or to be recycled into new steel products. Recycling steel saves energy and natural resources. Through recycling, the steel industry saves enough energy to power 20 million homes for one year. Old gas guzzlers donated to Habitat for Humanity last year contributed more than 1,500 tons to the total amount of steel recycled.
Assuming that a percentage of our vehicle donors replaced their old car with either a new one or a more fuel efficient used one, more than 1,100 Cars for Homes™ donors have saved gas and reduced the amount of CO2 produced by their transportation needs.
Rather than dealing with selling or trading in your old car, donate your car. When you sell a car, you have to drive around from dealership to dealership, just to show your car off and haggle over a sales price. Or you might place an ad in the paper, which requires more time and even money. Both ways leave you stressed out and disappointed because you tend to feel like you’re not getting the most out of the car you spent so many years with.
When you donate your vehicle to Cars for Homes™ we take care of all the details and your car (running or not) will be off your hands within a day or two’s time. The staff at Cars for Homes™ make donating a car easy and help you get the most out of your car donation, including a possible tax deduction.
When you donate a vehicle through the Cars for Homes™ program, your gift will go directly towards helping your local Habitat for Humanity affiliate build homes, revitalize neighborhoods and much more. Your car donation will help a family build a house and more opportunity for their future.
The Cars for Homes™ donation process is quick and easy. It can be accomplished online (www.habitat.org/carsforhomes) or with a toll-free phone call to 1-877-277-4344. If you donate an automobile or other vehicle, you may be eligible for a tax deduction.