To mark June, Homeownership Month, with touching stories of Americans finally owning their own homes, the Christian ecumenical organization Habitat for Humanity launched the Cans for Habitat recycling program. The money earned by the recycled cans since the program’s inception in 1997 had gone directly to fund Habitat projects across the nation.
"Cans for Habitat is a critical fundraising and awareness-building tool for Habitat for Humanity in countless communities across the country," said Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity International. "More than 50 families have become homeowners thanks to Cans for Habitat and countless others have been touched by this program, whether through volunteering as a can collector, building a home or recycling cans at home or work. I look forward to watching this program expand to further create a bridge between the average consumer and charitable involvement."
In the past 7 years, 570 Habitat affiliates, including the Aluminum Association, raised enough money to build 56 Habitat Houses. Some 7.5 million pounds of aluminum cans have been recycled in the 2,000 recycling centers, raising an equivalent of $2.6 million.
The world record for the most alumninum cans recycled in an eight-hour period was set by two Indiana affiliates of Habitat in 2003. The Habitat of Evansville, Inc., and Warrick County Habitat for Humanity partnered with local businesses and groups to raise more than 1,600 pounds of recycled cans, during the “You Otter Recycle Your Cans” event. The groups said they would hold a second annual event in mid July 2004.
"We hope that our success will challenge other affiliates to beat our record and recycle more for Habitat, said Sally Gries, community relations director of the Evansville affiliate. "Of course we'd hate to lose our current standing as Guinness Book record-holders, but our primary goal is to benefit the Cans for Habitat program. We are living proof that this kind of achievement is within reach."
According to recent statistics, national homeownership rate is at a mere 66 percent since 36.5 million people live below the official government poverty level and cannot afford housing. To increase community participation in the growing problem, Habitat strongly encouraged local communities to take advantage of June – Homeowner’s week – to make a difference.
"Cans for Habitat offers youth the perfect way to take an active role in their communities," said Steve Thompson, Cans for Habitat program director. "In many cases, Habitat volunteers must be at least 16 years of age to volunteer at a build site, but anyone can recycle. This program provides youth with a unique way to help their neighbors, while preserving the environment. That's something we can all take pride in."
While the 66 percent national homeownership rate is a positive indicator of a stable economy, there are still 36.5 million people (nearly 14 percent of the population) who live below the official government poverty level and cannot afford simple, decent housing, according to Habitat for Humanity International. These Americans can barely make ends meet and are often forced to choose between paying rent and buying food or clothing. And with rising housing costs in many parts of the country, this issue is far from resolved.
Habitat affiliates across the nation are using the Cans for Habitat program as a way to increase community participation surrounding this epidemic.
In 2003 alone, Cans for Habitat awarded $167,500 in grants to 17 Habitat affiliates across the nation. This figure contributes to the more than $1.5 million in grant money awarded since the first grant competition in 1998.
"We are really pleased with the community participation surrounding this program," said Randy Fillmore, executive director at Fort Wayne Habitat for Humanity in Fort Wayne, Ind. "The 2003-2004 school year generated more than 21,000 lbs. of aluminum cans. Next year we expect to see even more." Despite these accomplishments, there remains room for growth.
Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and homelessness worldwide and to making adequate, affordable shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat is founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have a simple, decent, affordable place to live in dignity and safety.
For more information or to take part in the recycling effort, please visit the Cans for Habitat Web site at: http://www.cansforhabitat.org.