Meet Habitat for Humanity, MidOhio

When E.J. Thomas took on his role as president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity MidOhio, he inherited an organization with serious financial troubles. “I said, ‘Well, I give you six months'”. Six months became 16 years, and in that time the chapter has grown to serve countless families and neighborhoods.

At its core, Habitat works to build and renovate houses for those who otherwise can’t afford it. But it takes more than knowing how to wield a hammer to keep the chapter running. Ask E.J. how he did it, and you’ll hear a lot of what he calls “rural analogies” – like when he compares leadership to driving a horse-drawn wagon, or revenue streams to a three-legged milking stool. But you don’t need a farmer’s almanac to see the wisdom in his advice. “Let’s not reinvent the wheel and fall into a hole the way somebody else might have done if they did it. Let’s learn from them.”

It’s this approach that led to thoughtful measures like kid-friendly headquarters. Now, instead of scrambling for babysitters or daycare, families can come in to apply at times that work for them.

When Habitat taught classes around financial literacy and first-time home ownership, it inspired community members to pay the favor forward.

Then there are the energy efficient upgrades in homes that keep monthly bills low long after construction has ended. And when Habitat taught classes around financial literacy and first-time home ownership, it inspired community members to pay the favor forward. “Valerie, one of our homeowners in Linden, took it upon herself to teach a lawn care and lawn mower maintenance class to a bunch of her neighbors.” The same neighbors who, before then, had never operated a lawn mower, let alone replaced the spark plug.

KeyBank took a similar cue when it donated $250,000 to the chapter as part of a larger funding initiative. The donation directly impacted the lives of four families—and you’ll find another legacy of the donation, too: one large, red key mounted on the wall of Habitat headquarters. It’s a reminder that to open doors, sometimes we have to build them first.