House of Hope
For Quana Smith, a Training Coordinator in the Central Appointment Center with Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, it was a Facebook post from a former co-worker that helped change her life by becoming a first-time homeowner.
“An old co-worker of mine posted about a housing event being hosted by Habitat for Humanity at her job, so I went down there to check it out to find out more about their housing program.” At the time, Quana didn’t realize that she was about to begin her journey with Habitat for Humanity, forever changing a cycle of renting in her family.
“Everyone strives to have something – I didn’t want to rent all my life,” says Quana. “I saw my parents do it, but I wanted to be the one in my family who could leave something behind.” After the frustration of learning she didn’t qualify for a loan due to not having enough proprietary credit, Quana figured it wouldn’t hurt to learn about other options.
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Luckily for Quana, the event was well worth the visit. After learning more about the program, Quana decided to get more information and met with a New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity rep to see if she would qualify for their housing program. It turned out she did, earning the minimum required income, in addition to passing Habitat’s credit check; and since she was unable to obtain adequate housing through other conventional means, such as a loan, Habitat for Humanity was able to help.
"The rep explained how the program worked and how much money a Habitat for Humanity partner needs to save a month in escrow during their partnership year to cover their first year of payments on their new home,” says Quana. “She also explained about the classes I would need to take in order to learn how to financially manage a budget, in addition to completing 350 volunteer hours with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity in place of a down payment."
Today, Quana is proud to say she is the first in her family to be a homeowner. This June will be four years since she received her home through Habitat’s program. “It was something affordable and economical for me. Where else can you pay a mortgage of $600 per month interest-free? I got to choose what I wanted in a home, including the lot, the paint color of my house, and even getting to pick out the flooring and cabinets I wanted.”
Because of what Habitat has given her, Quana encourages the program to others today. “It’s a great opportunity,” says Quana. “Even if you don’t qualify, visiting with a Habitat for Humanity rep will at least show you the steps you need to take in order to qualify to become a homeowner.”
Many corporations today are playing a bigger role in helping their communities through efforts such as Habitat for Humanity. As explained by Quana, the results can plant the seeds to happier employees. “My goal today is to get other employees to become homeowners through the (Habitat for Humanity) program, because if your employees are feeling good about themselves and their home lives, it’s better for the company overall.”
Companies that encourage community involvement distinguish themselves from their competitors, and see many benefits, including loyal customers and happier employees. Ochsner Health System, for example, is just one institution that provides opportunities for its employees to give back to its communities in several regions, including New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Houma.
In addition to providing its employees with volunteer opportunities outside of work hours through local community partners, the healthcare system also implemented a new effort in 2016 to give employees who don’t have the ability to volunteer during their free time the chance to do so. The initiative, called Ochsner Service Corps, provides Ochsner employees the opportunity to partner with colleagues from other regions in an offsite service project in order to give back to their communities. To facilitate this opportunity with employees' schedules, the events are scheduled as a paid day and projects are one day in length, and employees work their offsite day during a regular work shift.
Ochsner’s mission has always been to serve our communities. Each of our communities has many needs and as one of the largest employers in the state, we can make an impact on those needs through Ochsner Service Corps. Since starting the program nine months ago, we have had a great impact with our partners.
Ochsner’s Community Outreach team identified key partners in all its serving communities throughout the southeast Louisiana region that could benefit from days of service from its employees. Community partners of the program include Second Harvest Food Bank, PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly), Café Hope, located in metropolitan New Orleans’ West Bank region, Habitat for Humanity in the Baton Rouge, New Orleans and St. Tammany regions, and Good Samaritan Food Bank & Thrift Store in Raceland to name a few.
As explained by Ochsner Service Corps member, Yvette Francis, of her experience, “Serving on the Ochsner Service Corps was even more rewarding than I anticipated. I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. It encouraged me to look for other ways to serve my community and make a difference one step and one day at a time.”
And on May 17-19, Ochsner Service Corps plans to partner with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity on a very special project called “75 Volunteers in 3 Days.” This 3-day effort, being held in recognition of Ochsner’s 75 years of commitment and service to the community, will involve the help of a total of 75 Ochsner Service Corps members (25 Service Corps members each day) to build a home for a family in need in the New Orleans area. Through this effort, both organizations hope to empower individuals and families to transform their own lives for the better.
Photo credit (masthead): Ochsner Service Corps members work on a Habitat for Humanity home in New Orleans. Photo credit (sidebar): Quana Smith proudly standing in front of her home in New Orleans.