By Tom Eastman

CONWAY — Everyone loves a birthday party, especially when the big 5-0 comes around.

But when owner Dick Badger, 86, discussed plans with Badger Realty’s general manager Brenda Leavitt and staff on how best to celebrate the agency’s half-century mark this coming September, they came up with a better idea.

Rather than host a one-time gala, why not embrace the company’s longstanding philosophy of giving back to the community?

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With Brenda Leavitt (from left) and Dick Badger are Jen’s Friends treasurer Kathleen Sweeney and Jen’s Friends president Wendy Holmes, also Badger’s director of real estate closings. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Thus, Badger’s “Giving Back” program was launched, with fundraisers planned throughout the anniversary year and beyond.

“We had talked about a celebration,” Leavitt said in a joint interview with Badger at the firm’s Main Street office in North Conway across from Schouler Park. “It would be fun, but at the end of the day, the whole team sat together to talk about what means the most to us and hands down it is about giving back to those who have contributed to our success.

Badger concurred.

“It’s a philosophy we have always supported. Now we’ve just formalized it as part of our 50th.”

Badger has long encouraged his staff to serve the community, whether volunteering for non-profit organizations, or serving on town and civic boards.

“I just have always felt that we all owe community service,” said Badger. “It’s an obligation we all have to pay back to our communities, and, of course, to help those who cannot help themselves.”

Leavitt said the “Giving Back” program serves as an umbrella to tie together community efforts that staff members had already undertaken.

She estimates that Badger will donate $25,000 this year, with another $10,000 in terms of the value of services provided.

“We have always done many of these programs, but we have stepped up the pace this year and are branching out to be really creative,” said Leavitt, who came on board as general manager in 1981.

Mount Washington Valley is one of the most charitable regions in the country, and we are hoping to add to that by involving as many people in the community to join in the effort as possible, whether it be for as little as $5 or more.

“It’s all about people helping people. It’s part of our 50th, but it will be ongoing in future years.”

As Badger and Leavitt noted, they are building on efforts carried on by brokers at the firm. Realtor Bernie Friberg, for example, won the New Hampshire Association of Realtors’ “Good Neighbor” award two years ago for The Caring Wheel, Hands of Hope and the MWV Calendar for Charities. It awards the winner $1,000, and they then get to donate it to the charity of their choice.

Friberg donated hers to the Miranda Leavitt Diabetes Fund, named after Brenda and Rich Leavitt’s daughter, who died from complications from Type 1 diabetes in 2007.

This year, Badger’s real estate closings specialist Wendy Holmes, president of Jen’s Friends, and Realtor Linda Walker of Arts Jubilee, the Christmas Stocking Project, Mountain Top Music and many other organizations were nominated by Badger.


Badger’s “Giving Back” effort was launched in January with a $3,000 commitment to the North Conway Community Center’s “Play It Forward” $1.4 million capital campaign for its expansion now underway.

It continued with a “No Empty Bowls” program for local animal shelters. Championed by Christine Newton and Holmes (with the assistance of Karla Badger and Peter and Sharon Pietz), the three-week fundraiser enabled the communities of western Maine and Mount Washington Valley to help the Conway Area Humane Society and Harvest Hills Shelter of Bridgton, Maine. They donated supplies and food at Badger’sNorth Conway office, resulting in two carloads totaling over $2,000 worth of supplies.

Recently, Badger and Leavitt presented a $1,000 check to Jen’s Friends treasurer Kathleen Sweeney and Holmes.

“Not only did we feel blessed go give some financial support to Jen’s Friends, but more importantly, said Leavitt, “both Wendy Holmes and (Realtor) Maureen Garrette) work here at Badger and are board members of the local cancer fighting organization. Wendy coordinates the annual Jen’s Friends Climb Against Cancer at Cranmore, and Maureen coordinates the Jen’s Friends golf tournament every June.”

There also was a $3,000 donation June 4 to the MWV Chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

“We have recently teamed up with Habitat to form a long-term relationship,” said Leavitt. “We are providing funds to help them build their new project in Madison. We also have two interested brokers here at Badger — one of whom will be a board member for Habitat. And we are working with the Habitat board to assist with upcoming fundraisers. Coordinating upcoming events are Diane McGregor, Maureen Garrette, Brendan Battenfelder and myself.”

On Friday, Badger Realty sponsored an ice cream social at Memorial Hospital‘s Merriman House for senior citizens, hosted by Debbie Anderson, Yvonne Andreani and Leavitt, with the assistance of hospital CEO Scott McKinnon and Merriman House’s Sue Ruka. Entertainment was provided by local vocalist Mary Bastoni, with ice cream by Ben & Jerry’s.

And as part of Conway’s 250th anniversary celebration, on July 10, Badger Realty will host a barbecue at the Old-Fashioned Baseball game at North Conway‘s Whitaker Field. Helping with that event are Realtor Ed O’Halloran and his wife Louise, Peter Pietz, Brenda and Rich Leavitt, and Sue and Jeff Smith.

“The first 250 first responders there will receive a free barbecue dinner,” said Leavitt.

Other efforts include a commitment to arts in the valley. 

As part of Arts Jubilee’s summer season, Badger will once again sponsor fireworks at the traditional pops concert on July 30. Linda Walker — Badger Realty’s first female sales associate in 1980 — is heading the effort. Fellow Realtor Theresa Bernhardt is one of the major contributors to the MWV Arts Association’s annual Art in the Park in Schouler Park Aug. 8.

In addition, Leavitt says that Badger has donated to Mountain Top Music, with Walker and staffer Debbie Anderson serving as “champions.”

Badger also is assisting Fryeburg‘s Mother Seton House, with Leavitt and Realtor David Cianciolo — a Mother Seton House board member — serving as champions of a “Ghost Baby Shower” being planned for August.

Another beneficiary is the Miranda Leavitt Diabetes Fund, close to the hearts of all who work with Leavitt at Badger. The center is located atMemorial Hospital.

“As you can see,” said Leavitt, a resident of Fryeburg, “‘Giving Back’ is such a vital part to our success as Realtors, but more important as human beings. There are so many other organizations, to include non-profits and charities that we support. We plan on hitting every town in the valley to help. For instance, with the help of Debbie Anderson, who lives in Madison, we are working on some upcoming community events. Working in all towns showing our support is important, whether it is in the schools, libraries or community centers.”

For more, visit or call (603) 356-5757.

By Tom Eastman

CONWAY — Friday was a big day for the Mount Washington Valley chapter of Habitat for Humanity and the Kendal C. and Anna Ham Charitable Foundation, both of which date back to 1994.

At a luncheon ceremony at Merlino’s Restaurant in North Conway, Ham Charitable Foundation Executive Director Robert Murphy of Silver Lakerecognized Habitat for Humanity in two ways. First, he presented local Habitat chapter past President William Beck with the final $30,000 of the $100,000 committed by the Ham to Habitat’s condominium-remodeling project at 42 North Road in Conway.

The second was to give the chapter the 2015 Ham Foundation Charitable Award.

Murphy said it was only the third time the foundation had presented the award. “It’s for groups that do good work but receive little fanfare,” said Murphy, noting that past recipients were Starting Point in 2001 and the Gibson Center for Senior Services’ Meals on Wheels food delivery program in 2007.

The charitable foundation was established by Kendal C. and Anna Ham, who operated Pepsi bottling plants in North Conway and Lynn, Mass.

As the foundation’s website notes, “As the Hams had no children together, they focused their philanthropic goals on choosing which charities they would support. They planned on leaving their estates to several of the large, national charities.”

But after Kendal’s death in 1988, Anna began to refocus the couple’s philanthropic goals. “They had lived for many years in Conway, New Hampshire, and had a lakeside summer cottage on Moose Pond inBridgton, Maine. These communities were welcoming and important places to the Hams, and Anna decided that they should be the primary focus of their philanthropic efforts,” the website said.

After Anna’s death in 1996, the balance of her wealth was distributed to the foundation, which later expanded its scope to include Fryeburg, Maine.

“There are no restrictions other than geographic,” Murphy explained. “The mission is to improve the quality of life in Bridgton, Fryeburg andMount Washington Valley. It’s very simple.” Murphy said the foundation has assets in excess of $11 million, and since its inception, it has awarded more than $7 million to local organizations.


Murphy said Habitat for Humanity’s local chapter has applied for grants to the Ham 10 times, was successful nine times and received grants totaling $245,000 — including $100,000 for the North Road project.

Habitat purchased that site at a foreclosure sale for $150,000, and has spent $550,000 renovating the complex, which consists of four three-bedroom units.

Two units have been sold; the remaining two are being completed for selected families by the summer.

In addition, the chapter is working on a single-family house on Grison Road in the Eidelweiss subdivision in Madison, to be completed this winter.

The chapter has invested approximately $1.9 million, excluding volunteer labor, which has a market value in excess of $2.5 million, according to chapter president Dan Osetek, who, in addition to his volunteer work with the chapter, is a commercial lender at Meredith Village Savings.

The Ham Foundation gave them $2,500 for their first project in 1995, “which was a renovation of a house in Bartlett,” said Murphy, noting that their mission statement skews closely to the Ham’s: helping people. “They give people the ability to move into a home with an affordable mortgage, a house of which they invested their own sweat equity to complete the construction. They have a vested interest, with (30-year) interest-free loans.”

Murphy added that the local chapter screens applicants successfully, noting that, “in 20 years, they have not had a single default.”

Among the Habitat board members present at Friday’s luncheon were Russ Seybold, treasurer; incoming president Osetek; past president Bob Maguon; Doug Morehouse, construction site manager; Bill Beck, president; and Dick Ficke, vice president.

Ham board members in attendance were Dot Seybold, Karen Milford and Dennis Miller, and foundation directors Linda Eldridge and Sut Marshall.

Eldridge praised the work of the Habitat chapter, noting, “I am a private nurse, and I spent many years in their later years with Mr. and Mrs. Ham.

“They would be blown away by what the foundation has done over the years in helping people,” she said.


Founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller in Americus, Ga., Habitat for Humanity’s business model was to build and sell non-profit houses, using the proceeds to build the next house, and so on.

The Mount Washington Habitat For Humanity Affiliate was founded in 1994 by Al Risch and Ted Pettengill to “address the chronic affordable housing shortage in the communities of northern Carroll County in New Hampshire and portions of Oxford County in Maine,” according to the website.

So far, it has refurbished four houses; completed 11 in the Robert Morrell Drive complex off the Kancamagus Highway, one in Fryeburg and two in the four-unit complex at 42 North Road.

Habitat’s local chapter guidelines for prospective homeowners require that families have the ability to pay a mortgage and are currently living in substandard housing. Eligible families must have a gross income of between $25,000 and $40,000, depending on family size.

Construction costs typically are $80,000, according to board members, largely the result of an all-volunteer labor force and favorable pricing from suppliers.

A chosen family pays as little as $250 for a down payment on an interest-free mortgage, which is held by the affiliate and serviced by Northway Bank.

Participating familes agree to partner with the volunteers who build their homes by providing at least 300 hours of sweat equity on a Habitat project. They also are required to participate in training sessions on budgeting, home maintenance and repair.

“We’ve been able to help 31 adults and 48 children, who now have stable, safe and affordable living conditions,” said Osetek after the presentations.

“That’s the thing: you’re helping create stability for those kids, so that initial investment can go a long way,” said Osetek, married and a father of two young children, and a member of the chapter for six years.

He said volunteer members of the chapter meet Thursdays to work on the projects. The board meets once a month.

“I joined the chapter after moving here seven years ago from (Foxboro) Massachusetts because I wanted to give back,” said Osetek. “I like the idea of creating stability for future generations.”

For information, call (603) 356-3832 or visit

Myth: Habitat for Humanity gives houses away to poor people.
Habitat for Humanity offers homeownership opportunities to families who are unable to obtain conventional house financing. Generally, this includes those whose income is 30 to 50 percent of the area’s median income. In most cases, prospective Habitat homeowner families make a $500 down payment. Additionally, they contribute 300 to 500 hours of “sweat equity” on the construction of their home or someone else’s home. Because Habitat houses are built using donations of land, material and labor, mortgage payments are kept affordable.

Homeowner Abdur-Rahmaan works with volunteers to frame his Habitat house, sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Columbus, Georgia.

Myth: Habitat houses reduce a neighborhood’s property values.
Housing studies show affordable housing has no adverse effect on neighborhood property values. In fact, Habitat houses have proven to increase property values and local government tax income.

Myth: Only African Americans get Habitat for Humanity homes.
Habitat builds houses in partnership with those in need regardless of race, religion or any other difference. Prospective homeowners must meet three criteria: need; ability to repay the mortgage; and a willingness to partner with Habitat.

Myth: Habitat homeowners are on welfare.
While some Habitat homeowners receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children, many more are working people. Typically their annual income is less than half the local median income in their community.

Myth: You have to be Christian to become a Habitat homeowner.
Habitat homeowners are chosen without regard to race, religion or ethnic group, in keeping with U.S. law and with Habitat’s abiding belief that God’s love extends to everyone. Habitat also welcomes volunteers from all faiths, or no faith, who actively embrace Habitat’s goal of eliminating poverty housing from the world.

Myth: Habitat for Humanity International dictates policy and practices for every local Habitat organization.
Local Habitat affiliates are independent, nonprofit organizations that operate within a specific service area within the framework of the Habitat Affiliate Covenant.

Myth: Habitat for Humanity is an arm of the government.
Habitat for Humanity is not an arm of the government. Habitat is an independent, nonprofit organization that accepts some government funds and other resources to help provide houses for those in need. We accept these funds as long as they do not limit our ability to demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus Christ. Additionally, our local affiliates insert specific guidelines as needed to avoid becoming dependent on or controlled by government funds.

Myth: Habitat for Humanity was founded by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
Habitat was started in 1976 in Americus, Ga., by the late Millard Fuller and his wife Linda. President Carter and his wife Rosalynn (whose home is eight miles from Americus, in Plains, Ga.), have been longtime Habitat supporters and volunteers who help bring national attention to the organization’s house-building work. Each year, they lead the Jimmy Carter Work Project to help build houses and raise awareness of the need for affordable housing.


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Pictured are Nicholas and Stephanie Swan along with their children receiving the keys to their new home from Bob Howe, Habitat construction foreman. The Dedication Ceremony was held on Saturday morning, February 7th in the second home to be completed at 42 North Road in Conway.

Bob Magoun, past president and chairman of the Family Selection Committee welcomed nearly thirty guests.  In his welcoming remarks, Bob explained that “the Dedication Ceremony gives Habitat a chance to thank the many people from our community who help make the construction of each new home a success”.  He added, “donors, volunteers, board members, committee members, staff and our local community all work together to help carry out the mission of Habitat for Humanity – building affordable and decent housing.”  Most important he explained, “the Ceremony is a celebration of the hard work and determination of this deserving family who is realizing the dream of home ownership.”

After an opening prayer and Reading of the “Litany of the Tithe-Built House” by Sam Johnson, Board of Directors, Dick Ficke, Vice President presented a brief history of Habitat.  Founded 1976 by Millard Fuller in Americus, Ga, Habitat’s business model was to build and sell non-profit houses, using the proceeds to build the next house, and the next, and so on.  Based on Christian principles, the mission, as it is today, is to build affordable and decent houses for neighbors in need.

The Mount Washington Habitat For Humanity Affiliate was founded in 1994 and in the years following has refurbished four houses; built 11 in the Robert Morrell Dr. complex; one in Fryeburg and so far two in the four unit complex at 42 North Rd., the first occupied by the Fowler family last May.  Ficke further noted that Habitat has started another house on Grison Rd. in Madison, construction to be resumed this spring.  To date, 48 children have benefited from the stability and security that Habitat homes provide, knowing what school they will be going to, that they will not be uprooted every few months at the whims of a landlord, what it is like to have one’s own bedroom and share in the economic security their parents enjoy.

Jennifer Lain, Family Partner, from the NH Affordable Housing Education and Development (AHEAD) office in Conway presented the Swan family household gifts, courtesy of Proctor and Gamble and then a Bible from Habitat as a reminder to all of the Christian principles underlying the housing program.

After receiving the keys to his new home, Nick Swan thanked everyone who had anything to do with the success of this project.  He reminisced about a conversation that he had with Stephanie a couple of years ago.  They were talking about their then living conditions.  He told her, “I don’t know how I am going to do it, but I promise you I am going to get you a house.”  As it turned out, it was not too much later that he saw a advertisement announcing a call for applications for Habitat houses.  He completed the application and although he met all the requirements of being a local resident for a year, had a housing need, was in the financial bracket and would agree to partner with Habitat in the construction of the house, there was nevertheless competition. Upon learning of his acceptance, Nick drew an analogy of his reaction to that of Tom Brady’s reaction on the sidelines when the Patriots secured the Super Bowl win in the last twenty seconds of the game.

“This is a dream come true, there is no other way of saying it.”  He allowed that he and his family will forever be grateful for family, friends, neighbors, and most of all, the Habitat volunteers who made it all happen.

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