Christon Clark is dedicated to Habitat for Humanity. He has worked in various capacities for the company since 2009 and has recently moved to Avery County from Indiana to continue his work here as executive director.
“My first time in this region, when I interviewed for this job in June, the scenery just blew me away,” Clark said.
The region’s mountains and valleys reminded Clark of El Salvador, where he has done considerable work for Habitat in the past.
Clark is excited to get started in Avery County and already has a vision for what he hopes to do with the organization here. “I believe in Habitat’s model and mission, and I want to do my part to bring more affordable housing to both Avery and abroad,” Clark said. “No matter where you are, even in this country, you can be in the wealthiest county and there is still a need for affordable housing and Habitat fits that niche that really no other program that I am aware of really does.”
Clark’s work with Habitat has already begun in the community. “Tomorrow, we start the wall framing on the Farmer house. It will be our 44th build here in Avery County,” Clark added.
Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller and is dedicated to providing affordable housing to those in need. In its early years, Habitat was largely based in Africa and worked to build housing for villagers in Zaire — now The Democratic Republic of the Congo. The program found widespread recognition and success in America in 1984, when then-president Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, took their first Habitat work trip. Since 1976 Habitat has built or repaired more than one million homes and has served more than five million people worldwide.
Avery County’s local Habitat affiliate gets a wide range of volunteers from all over the country, attracted by the area’s scenery and the local offices’ ability to host up to 20 volunteers in bunks on their premises.
According to Clark, 75 percent of Avery County Habitat volunteers come from outside the county or region. In the five short weeks that he has been director, Clark has seen groups from Raleigh, Roanoke, New Jersey and Charlotte journey to Avery.
“In the Habitat world,” Clark said, “the one thing you really have to worry about is where do I get my volunteers from? Well here, they come to us. It’s really a unique thing.”
Although the majority of Avery’s Habitat volunteers are from other states and cities, Clark says they still depend on local help.
“When the school year starts and through winter is when our outside volunteers really slow down,” Clark explained. “We have a group called the Tuesday afternoon crew from local churches that have been working with us for 20 years. They can do it all, they’ve done it all. Nick Daniels from Avery County High School has a carpentry class that over the years has helped us a lot. His classes are going to come out and help us finish the framing on the Farmer house.”
Clark is ambitious and that, perhaps, is just what Habitat needs in a director.
“We are building three houses a year right now and the goal is to get up into the four- or five-houses range. Within a few years, if we could get it up to six, that would just be fantastic, because we don’t have a lack of qualifying families in Avery,” Clark said. “We estimate that up to 13 percent of the county’s residents qualify for Habitat assistance based on our financial guidelines.”
For more information about Avery Habitat for Humanity, click to www.habitat.org or call (828) 733-1909.