RHS Youth Initiative launches community-wide effort to build Habitat for Humanity home

KNITTING FOR A CAUSE—Ashley Gremel and Barb Stein, owner of Great Northern Trading Co., display the navy and olive patchwork hand-knit blanket Ashley knit over the past several months. As treasurer of RHS’ Youth Initiative, Ashley asked for Barb’s help in selling the blanket, with all proceeds going to the Youth Initiative Habitat for Humanity Rockford Build. The blanket will be on display at Great Northern through the end of October, with the bidding starting at $50. Ashley estimates she has $35 to $40 in yarn, and over 50 hours in knitting. Bids can be placed at Great Northern, or by calling the store at (616) 866-9232.

KNITTING FOR A CAUSE—Ashley Gremel and Barb Stein, owner of Great Northern Trading Co., display the navy and olive patchwork hand-knit blanket Ashley knit over the past several months. As treasurer of RHS’ Youth Initiative, Ashley asked for Barb’s help in selling the blanket, with all proceeds going to the Youth Initiative Habitat for Humanity Rockford Build. The blanket will be on display at Great Northern through the end of October, with the bidding starting at $50. Ashley estimates she has $35 to $40 in yarn, and over 50 hours in knitting. Bids can be placed at Great Northern, or by calling the store at (616) 866-9232.

This summer, a group of Rockford High School (RHS) students active in their Youth Initiative Community Service Club met with school administration, their club advisor, RHS English teacher Dan Modderman, and representatives from Habitat for Humanity of Kent County to discuss a partnership like none other undertaken by Youth Initiative. The club wanted to work with the local Kent County Habitat affiliate to build a LEED-certified home for a hardworking Habitat homebuyer during the 2009-10 school year.

They knew this was no small task. In fact, the club would have to raise $75,000 to underwrite the cost of the home, volunteer 2,000 hours to build it, and secure skilled labor and building products. In doing so, the students would leave a legacy while helping a family realize the American dream. Plus, they would learn a lot about homebuilding, how to collaborate for a common goal, and more about their fellow classmates and community. In short, they would be a part of something much bigger than themselves.

Since August, the club of over 100 students has rallied and kicked off a number of fundraisers, including:

• volunteering to run the

children’s activities and

games at the Heirloom

Tomato Festival and Rockford’s three weekends of Harvest Fest, collecting donations for their help;

• running numerous bake sales at the high school and before home football games;

• selling cider at the home football games;

• selling pancakes before school.

Their efforts have accumulated more than $5,000 to date, but most importantly, the students are getting the word out, gathering support and planning additional fundraisers on a larger scale. Habitat representative Kathy Forzley is also working with Youth Initiative officers to prospect and plan corporate visits.

Youth Initiative is excited to partner with the HEART of Rockford Business Association and its Community Unity fundraising program. From October 15 to 31, anyone who presents a Community Unity ID card when shopping or dining at any of the participating HEART businesses will help raise money for the Rockford-Habitat build. Participating businesses will donate 10 percent of the cardholder’s sale to Youth Initiative. Participating businesses include: A Charmed Life… Nail Salon, Aunt Candy’s Toy Co., Baskets in the Belfry, Bow Dacious Designs, The Corner Bar, Creative Concepts, Dam Dogs, G. Willikers, Great Northern Trading Co., Imperial Computer Solutions, Jade, J.T. Stitchery & Frame Shop, Kimberly’s Boutique, Kitty & Doggy 2, Paper Doll, Pegasus Sports, Poindexter’s Specialty Marketplace, Reading Books, Reds on the River, Right at Home, Right Up Your Alley, Rogue River Tavern, Rockford Flower Shop, The Rockford Squire, Sage & Roses, Ward’s Hair Place, and XScape Hair Salon.

The Community Unity ID card and flier can be downloaded at www.habitatkent.org or clipped from The Rockford Squire. These cards may be copied, freely distributed and used multiple times during the designated fundraising period (October15-31). Some product exceptions may apply—see businesses for details.

The HEART of Rockford Business Association board launched the Community Unity partnership in April 2009, working with the Rockford Sports Boosters. The program is run three times per year (Jan. 15-31, April 15-30, Oct. 15-31) with a designated nonprofit organization. HEART board members conceived of the program as a way to work together with area nonprofits to support each other. It is a part of HEART’s efforts to encourage residents to buy local, as doing so keeps resources in our local economy and spurs economic growth and jobs. The Community Unity fundraiser saves on shipping costs and volunteer staff hours to organize it, and consumers are offered a much greater selection of goods and services to choose from over traditional catalog sales.

Youth Initiative students meet weekly before school to plan fundraisers and community service efforts. They have a number of events on the docket—stay tuned for details.

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