Unlike many organizations, Habitat for Humanity of Denton County not only survived but actually thrived during the pandemic thanks in large part to the leadership of board members and Flower Mound residents David Johnson and Glenn Ward.
As president and president-elect, respectively, Johnson and Ward left the organization in much better shape than they found it when they began their tenures in June 2019. Under their leadership, the board consolidated facilities, moved the Habitat Village project from a dormant piece of land into an active project and improved the organization’s leadership structure. Those priorities expected to continue as Ward became president and Johnson a past president in June.
“They really strengthened the board and the board’s role,” said Lora Blakeslee Atkinson, who Johnson hired as executive director 18 months ago. “Boards can get stuck in administrative procedures and they moved the board to focus on vision. They already are talking about ‘what do we want to build after Habitat Village.’ They have done a great job of positioning the board to focus on the future.”
Habitat moved all of its operations to its ReStore resale shop to Denton on North Cornell Lane off Hwy 380. The result of purchasing the property it had been leasing last August and selling the office building it owned on North Carroll Boulevard in February ended up saving the nonprofit 40 percent in facility expenses.
Johnson led the organization through the planning phase for a sorely needed facelift of the ReStore property to revitalize the aging building and provide Habitat a fresh presence in the community.
Both men have put their business savvy to good use in aiding the organization. Johnson is a commercial lender at First Citizens Bank and Ward an End-to-End Supply Chain Transformation Lead for global chemical company Celanese.
“Our board doesn’t hesitate to take the steps to move forward even if the timing doesn’t seem right to some,” Atkinson said. “They vetted the purchase and we went forward. And we have proceeds from that sale that will remodel part of our campus to build our corporate offices.”
Habitat Village is an eight-acre property in southeast Denton that the organization purchased more than five years ago. The goal is to begin building the first home next year and continue building for about eight years to create a unique neighborhood with 35 homes overall.
“We have to fundraise for every single home,” Atkinson said. “Our goal for the infrastructure is $2.1 million.”
She noted that homes in Habitat Village will offer more modern amenities than others the organization has traditionally built.
“The City of Denton, which has been really great, wanted us to do something a little different and to compliment the surrounding neighborhood so we hired designer William Brown to create new floor plans and elevations and really put a vision to the development we want to build,” Atkinson said.
The Denton County chapter arose from the consolidation of the Denton and Lewisville Habitat affiliates in 1994 and completed its 100th home in Denton County in 2018. It had a successful partnership with the Cross Timbers Rotary Club of Flower Mound to fully fund and provide volunteer efforts to build Habitat’s 103rd home in Pilot Point in 2020.
Other financial improvements Johnson and Ward supported were including partnering with the City of Denton to aid Habitat’s mission to purchase lots to build homes for low-income families. Habitat’s volunteers identify and select those needy families who are able to take advantage of the program.
“The committee chooses the families anonymously. The committee does not know the demographics or ethnicities. They know the stories of the families and if they’d be able to make their mortgage payment,” Atkinson said.
Most homes Habitat Denton County builds are in or around the city of Denton which recently gave the organization a $215,000 grant to purchase lots that have become more expensive in other areas of the county. Like everyone else, Habitat has been facing the challenge of rising costs and even shortages of materials needed to build the homes, especially wood. For example, windows that previously could be secured within days might now take up to 18 weeks.
“We really need cities within our county to help us with substantial grants or help us fundraise to be able to come into their cities and make the houses more affordable,” she said. “We’ll build wherever we can get land within our county. The City of Denton has been very generous.”
Johnson remains very active on the board as past president where one of his roles will be to advise Ward.
“We’re fortunate to still have his advice,” Atkinson said. “He has a great business background.”