Habitat for Humanity of Northern Saratoga, Warren, & Washington Counties Executive Director, Courtney Shaler Smith, talks with GlensFallsRegion.com about the all-volunteer organization, located in Glens Falls NY. As the local organization’s first Executive Director ever, she tells us about the local chapter; projects and upcoming events; and ways to donate and volunteer!
Can you tell us a little about the history of Habitat for Humanity?
Established in 1991, Habitat for Humanity of Northern Saratoga, Warren & Washington Counties has built 20 houses as an all-volunteer organization, partnering with families to provide them with simple, decent, and affordable housing. Support for this work comes from local businesses, churches, community organizations and individuals.
As an affiliate to Habitat for Humanity International, www.habitat.org, we coordinate all aspects of Habitat home building in our local area – fund raising, building site selection, partner family selection and support, house construction, and mortgage servicing. Habitat for Humanity believes in giving a hand up not a hand out. In partnership with families in need, we build simple, decent, and affordable housing.
When did your chapter of Habitat for Humanity switch from a volunteer organization to professional staff?
In Spring 2012, the board held a retreat to develop a strategic plan for our chapter. As part of this process, it recognized the difficulty of growing the organization without full-time staff. The board also reached out to several similarly-sized Habitat chapters in the region that had made the change from an all-volunteer-run organization to professional staff to learn about their experiences. The board concluded that in order to be better able to meet the housing needs of families in our area, we needed to have full-time professional help. They began the search in the Fall of 2012, and on January 2nd of this year, I joined Habitat as their first Executive Director.
How can someone donate to Habitat for Humanity?
Those individuals, businesses and organizations wishing to donate are welcome to use the Paypal link on our website or it can be sent directly to our office:
Habitat for Humanity of Northern Saratoga, Warren & Washington Counties
4 Glens Falls Technical Park, Suite 4
Glens Falls, NY 12801
Your gift could help buy:
- $10 = Box of Nails
- $35 = Roof Shingles
- $50 = Low Flow Toilet
- $75 = Window
- $100 = Kitchen Sink
- $150 = Front Door
- $500 = Siding
- $1000 = Wallboard
- $2000 = Flooring
How do you choose recipients for houses?
Partner families will be selected based on the following criteria:
- Demonstrated financial need (not able to obtain a mortgage through standard channels).
- Residence and/or employment in Warren, Washington or northern Saratoga Counties.
- Present living quarters are substandard (examples include but are not limited to no indoor plumbing, leaks in roof, inadequate heating, overcrowding – 3 or more per bedroom or children of different genders sharing a bedroom, unsafe or unsanitary conditions, or not handicapped accessible.)
- Meet HABITAT financial guidelines (must be able to afford a monthly mortgage payment of $600 to $650).
- Exhibited willingness to participate in the program (each family is expected to provide 500 hours of volunteer labor….sweat equity!).
If someone is interested in volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, what should they do?
We are always looking for volunteers with or without construction skills. If you are interested in helping out on the job site, we have volunteer opportunities for crew leaders, greeters, hammer swingers, and sandwich makers. If you are interested in helping out in the office, serving on a committee or participating as a board member, let us know. Fill out our volunteer survey at: http://www.glensfallshabitat.org/get-involved/volunteer-survey/.
Few things in life are more rewarding than seeing the gratitude expressed by a new homeowner when they are presented with the keys to their new home. The knowledge that you were able to help a family realize a dream, possibly a new beginning, can be tremendously satisfying.
What projects do you have going on right now?
Right now we have a remodel on Platt Street in Glens Falls, as well as building lots in Glens Falls and Lake George…all waiting for families!
What upcoming events do you have happening?
On Friday, March 22nd at 4pm, we are having an Open House and Ribbon Cutting to celebrate our new office at 4 Glens Falls Technical Park, Suite 4. The public is welcome to attend.
On Tuesday, April 2nd at 5:30pm, we are having a Family Information Night. We will be going over the application process and requirements for becoming a partner family. Anyone interested in attending should RSVP by calling 793-7484 or send an email to
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What is your background with not-for-profit organizations?
I have over 15 years of experience in the not-for-profit sector. Most recently, I coordinated community health grants that covered 4 counties, expanding outreach efforts, building capacity and mobilizing community involvement. I am a graduate of the College of St. Joseph with a B.A. in Business and Leadership. In 2012, I was named one of the Post Star’s “Top 20 Under 40.” Additionally, I serve in a volunteer capacity Ambassador for the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, and as a troop leader for Girl Scouts of Northeastern NY.
What was the most prestigious moment in your career, so far?
The most prestigious moment for me in my career was when I was chosen by the Habitat Board of Directors to be there first ever Executive Director. As a child I grew up in a trailer park, so to be able, as a career, to assist families in obtaining decent and affordable housing really spoke to me on so many levels.
If you could describe Habitat for Humanity in one word, what would it be?
How about two words: life changing!
Let us know if you going to support your community by donating either time or money to Habitat for Humanity of Northern Saratoga, Warren & Washington Counties!