Celebrating 40 Years of Building Brighter Futures
Jan. 15, 2019
Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver is celebrating our 40th anniversary in 2019. It’s exciting to think about the hundreds of thousands of people who have been involved in our program over the past four decades.
When our local chapter was established in 1979, Habitat for Humanity was hardly a household name. In fact, we were one of the first 10 Habitat affiliates to start in the United States. At that time, Denver was going through some unique changes that inspired a group of citizens to focus on affordable housing.
What was it like in 1979?
In the late 1970’s, Denver experienced a boom in the oil and gas, and telecommunications industries, and was the second largest employment center for Federal employees (after Washington DC). This created a large job market for college educated, management-level positions. One side effect was that blue collar jobs diminished, and many low-income families found themselves priced out of the city center. At the same time, new housing production was at an all-time low. It’s reported that from 1970 to 1979, only 8,000 single-family homes were built in Denver… the fewest number since the Depression-era 1930s.
Several local community activists had recently read the books of Millard Fuller, Habitat for Humanity International’s founder, and were inspired to get “partnership housing” started here in Denver. These volunteers were part of a group called the Evangelical Concerns Committee. Each year this group focused on a different community issue, and in 1978 that issue was affordable housing. This committee went on to form not just Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, but also Hope Communities.
It wasn’t easy to raise awareness and funding for Habitat’s first home since almost no one had heard of Habitat for Humanity. According to Ray Finney, one of the pivotal volunteers in Habitat’s founding, “We simply told the story of Habitat over and over. It worked because people really connected to Habitat’s mission.”
Looking back, we certainly appreciate the motivation Habitat Metro Denver’s founders had, and the determination they needed to get our affiliate started forty years ago. It’s through their vision that Habitat Metro Denver has been able to engage countless community members to build homes, communities and hope... and ultimately to build brighter futures for generations. Together, we’ve been able to serve more than 930 local families! Thank you to everyone who is a part of Habitat Metro Denver’s past, present and future.