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Her own home search leads to excellent opportunity of helping others find a home

Habitat for Humanity is an organization its sole purpose to help families in need have houses of their own.
Ironically, Habitat’s new Family Services Coordinator came to Lincolnton — and to her new job — because she found a house she wanted for her own.
Ren Johnson, a California native, was recently divorced when she came to stay with some friends on the North Carolina coast. They had been trying to sell her on moving to this state for awhile, but it wasn’t until she went on eBay and saw the house on the corner of Congress and Academy Streets that she decided moving here might suit her just fine.
“I’m a small town girl,” Johnson said. “I found the house on Ebay and loved it. So I researched Lincolnton.”
Johnson left California’s Napa Valley – where her grandparents had settled in 1899 – and came to Lincolnton not knowing a soul. She thought moving to the south might be a difficult change, but so far, the transition has been a smooth one.
“I just fell in love with Lincolnton,” said Johnson. “Everyone is so nice. I’m really happy here.”
Having settled into her beautiful new home, Johnson set about finding a job. She had worked in human resources in California and was used to working with people. When Johnson was living in central Oregon, she and some co-workers built the first Habitat home in the town of Prineville. The position with Habitat here in Lincolnton was a perfect fit.
“I had heard about it from one of the board members,” Johnson said. “I got the position three weeks ago.”
The position of Family Services Coordinator is a new one, created for the purpose of making contact with families who may be in need of Habitat for Humanity’s services. Johnson is currently performing her duties from home, but she says Habitat eventually plans to add office space for her at the Habitat for Humanity Home Store.
So far, Johnson is settling into her new position.
“It’s been interesting,” said Johnson. “A lot has been prep work, making business cards.”
Soon, Johnson will get into the meat and potatoes of her job, with the hope that she can get the word out about Habitat.
“My primary function is to find qualified homeowners,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, many people in the community may have misconceptions about who can qualify as a homeowner through Habitat. Johnson says some people think the program is only for very low income families when, in actuality, families with low to moderate incomes may qualify.
Essentially, Habitat for Humanity is designed to cater to those who cannot qualify for conventional loans. Because Habitat relies solely on volunteer labor, the cost of building a home is greatly diminished, and the no-interest loans they offer make it easier for families to pay for the homes.
With land set aside to begin building Habitat homes, Johnson says they are just waiting for people to apply. Currently, there are no applicants.
“It’s amazing because so many out there would qualify,” said Johnson. “People just don’t understand.”
Habitat’s current goal is to build two homes this year, although Johnson says they could do more if they had the applicants. Educating the public in the hope of gaining those missing applicants is exactly where Johnson comes in.
Johnson says she plans to use a variety of resources in trying to get the word out about Habitat and to get families to apply for homes.
“I’m starting by trying to visit churches,” Johnson said. “I will try and tap into the community organizations we have here.”
Getting the community more involved in Habitat for Humanity’s cause is also a priority for Johnson.
“We have the property,” said Johnson. “We have organizations and churches that want to help build. We can always use more volunteers, materials and, of course, money. Also, we can always use more at the store.”
The Habitat for Humanity Home Store, which is located at 809 E. Sycamore St. behind BB&T and Family Dollar, is a great place to take donations, everything from furniture to knickknacks. All the proceeds go toward helping Habitat build homes for deserving families.
Habitat for Humanity is an organization that exists to help people become homeowners. Johnson says it has helped her adjust to her new life in Lincolnton.
“I truly believe in it, and it was a way of meeting people in the community,” Johnson said. “It met my needs professionally and personally.”
As Johnson begins the task of finding area families to recruit as potential Habitat homeowners, she continues to adapt to life in Lincolnton. She likes the friendly, down-to-earth attitude of the people, but says she is still getting used to the humidity.
One thing Johnson is already used to is living in an area very unlikely to see an earthquake any time soon. She lived through the big San Francisco quake of 1989.
Here in Lincolnton, Johnson probably won’t feel the earth move, but she does plan to be her own force of nature when it comes to the new job about which she is already passionate: helping families in need become homeowners.
by Allyson Levine

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