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Local Habitat for Humanity chapter hires executive director

Published: Thursday, July 24, 2014 9:28 p.m. CST
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(Jessica Bourque – jbourque@shawmedia.com)
Sarah Peterson was appointed as the first executive director of Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity. She will help the organization grow fundraising efforts so it can build more affordable housing for local families like the Gonzalez family, who will move into project house 11 next spring.

MORRIS – Based on the job description drafted by Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity board members, the organization’s first-ever executive director needed to be a superhuman.

Human resources, fundraising, marketing, volunteer coordinating: the list of desired skills and duties was extensive.

“We realized we were expecting a little bit of a superhero,” said Julie Wilkinson, board president for the Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity.

Who they found was Sarah Peterson of Morris, and although she doesn’t posses super powers, Wilkinson thinks she will be a perfect fit for Habitat for Humanity.

“Sarah stood out to us because she really had all of the traits we were looking for,” Wilkinson said.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit that builds affordable homes for families that earn 30 to 60 percent of the area’s median income and are unable to qualify for a conventional home loan. The homes come with a no-interest mortgage, with mortgage payments going to fund other Habitat projects.

Peterson was appointed by the Habitat board earlier this month, making her the first executive director in the local chapter’s 18-year history.

“It’s the first time I’ve been in an executive director role, and it’s the first time Habitat has had an executive director, so we can grow together,” Peterson said.

In her new, part-time position, Peterson will locate additional fundraising sources, recruit volunteers, increase community awareness and, in general, help the organization expand so it can provide more affordable housing to local families.

As of this year, the organization is constructing its eleventh local home.

Hiring a part-time director to help facilitate the day-to-day operations has been a longtime goal for Grundy-Three Rivers, which has been manned by an all-volunteer staff, Wilkinson said.

“We knew that we were only able to accomplish so much with volunteers,” she said. “As folks with full-time jobs and other commitments, the scope of what we could do was very limited.”

The decision to hire a paid staff person was driven by the success of other nonprofit organizations that hired paid employees and saw immediate growth, Wilkinson said.

“We saw that it was really a game-changer for other organizations and other Habitat affiliates,” she said.

As the former membership and events director for the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce, the Habitat board felt Peterson had the professional experience needed to help run Habitat.

For Peterson, her connection to Habitat stems back to college when she volunteered for her school’s Habitat chapter and spent her spring break building a home. More recently, she has helped with Grundy-Three Rivers golf outings.

She said she is excited to work for Habitat – an organization that Peterson said provided some “of the best experiences of my life,” and looks forward to helping the organization expand its fundraising efforts.

“You’re bringing so many people from different walks of life together to not just build a home, but to also make a family’s dream a reality,” she said.

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