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VOL. 126 | NO. 209 | Wednesday, October 26, 2011

ServiceMaster, Other Cos. Support Habitat Mission

By Sarah Baker

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Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis has a busy couple of weeks ahead as it closes its books on the fall building season.

ServiceMaster CEO Hank Mullany presents Justine Payne with keys to her home.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Tuesday, Oct. 25, marked the dedication of The ServiceMaster Co. home at 3477 E. Oak Side Drive in Trinity Park, the first all-green neighborhood being developed by Memphis Habitat. The will be the Memphis-based home and commercial services company’s fifth sponsorship home with the nonprofit.

Community involvement is just one way ServiceMaster employees fulfill the firm’s mission, CEO Hank Mullany said.

“One of our key core values is we care about people and another one of our key core values is we do the right thing,” Mullany said. “Frankly, working with the Habitat for Humanity, if you think about their mission to provide safe, healthy, affordable shelter for all people, it’s a perfect fit for us.”

Over the past five years, more than 2,400 ServiceMaster associates have volunteered with Memphis Habitat with a donated volunteer cost surpassing $220,000, and corporate sponsorship provided of $70,000 per home.

ServiceMaster also donates pest services from its Terminix business, lawn service from TruGreen, a home warranty from American Home Shield, and products and equipment from Merry Maids as well as its ServiceMaster Clean business.

This year is unique in that ServiceMaster is dedicating the home to the late Tom Baulk, a former associate who’s legacy lives on as one who put others before himself.

“He’s done a lot of volunteer work within the community and also specifically has volunteered at Habitat for Humanity,” Mullany said. “He is someone who clearly lived and embodied our core values, so we wanted to take the honor to dedicate this honor to Tom.”

It’s sponsorships from ServiceMaster and organizations like it that enable Memphis Habitat to keep alive its own mission of eliminating poverty housing.

Tuesday’s dedication wrapped up ServiceMaster’s work on the fall build, to be followed by the entire Memphis Habitat dedication of homes and parade Saturday, Oct. 29, at Trinity Park.

“We have these dedication ceremonies at the end of every build. It’s kind of a ceremonial closure,” said director of sponsorship and community relations Jessica Hord. “It also allows sponsors and volunteers that maybe volunteered early in the build to come back at the end and see the finished product and also tour the house and see the homeowner again.”

Memphis Habitat has built 16 homes this fall and 27 new homes year to date, ranking among the top five homebuilders in Shelby County. The ServiceMaster build will make 29 homes in Trinity Ridge, which will hold 38 when the development is finished.

The end of the build will also mark 390 homes completed by the nonprofit since its founding in 1983, meaning a big celebration is in store for the next building cycle that kicks off in March when it reaches the 400 mark. And that’s not including the 59 homes built overseas as a part of Memphis Habitat’s affiliation with Habitat International.

The general public’s understanding of the process doesn’t always match up with the constant demand for new homes.

“The common misconception is that Habitat homes are given away and they absolutely are not, the homeowners actually purchase them from us,” Hord said. “There’s a lot of education involved and reaching out to the people to have them apply for and get accepted into the program.”

Memphis Habitat works with low-income individuals and families who otherwise might not qualify for a traditional mortgage. That’s why homeowners are required to attend 15 weeks of financial education classes with Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University and come up with a $1,000 down payment/emergency fund.

Habitat also asks that the homeowners complete 350 hours of “sweat equity” throughout the program, which includes working on their own home, other homeowners’ homes, and volunteering for Habitat in its ReStore, at its offices, at events or even volunteering for other nonprofits.

And finally, upon completion of the entire program, the homeowners purchase the homes from Memphis Habitat via a 20- or 30-year zero-interest mortgage.

“We’re always working to explain to people in terms of here’s how the program works, here’s how you apply, if you don’t think you could ever own a home, it actually might be a possibility, please come talk to us,” Hord said.

It’s these messages and more that will be prevalent throughout Habitat’s biggest fundraiser of the year, its Tool Box Bash, which is slated for Nov. 5, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at BRIDGES Memphis, 477 N. Fifth St.

This year’s theme is “Where Mardi Gras Meets Memphis.” Visit memphishabitat.com for more information.

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