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.
CONDO PROJECT NEARING COMPLETION
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 www.mwv-habitat.org.