01/17/08 — New construction manager will continue Habitat's mission

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New construction manager will continue Habitat's mission

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 17, 2008 1:46 PM

Habitat for Humanity of Goldsboro Wayne County has hired a new construction manager.

Former Michigan contractor and long-time house building volunteer Matt Howell started work last week, Habitat Vice President Jackie Gunn said.

He has been involved in not only the construction but the faith aspect of Habitat's mission, participating in blitz-build mission trips for 10 years with volunteers from his church.

"It gives us an opportunity for people to see our faith in action," Howell said. "People see Christ in you without you having to say a word. We're letting our actions show what we believe."

While construction skills are important, Mrs. Gunn said staff members need other attributes as well to be successful in their mission to get needy families in homes of their own -- and volunteers in line to build the structures.

"You have to identify with them, communicate with them. You want those volunteers to come back," she said.

Howell said he believes God used those years he went on mission trips to the upper peninsula of Michigan to prepare him for the job in Goldsboro.

"We took high school students, college students and adults with us. There wasn't a Habitat there then, but when they came to Algera County, we merged with them. We were doing five-day blitz builds before Habitat was there," Howell said.

He made his living buying land and building speculative houses for 20 years until a couple years ago when the economy faltered.

"The spec houses I was building and selling stopped selling," he said.

He said many factors conspired to point him to his new career -- the mission trips, the housing slump back in Michigan, even the Duke sweatshirt he picked up for $1 at a church rummage sale five years ago.

Everything pointed to North Carolina.

What impressed Habitat Director Beth Parrish the most about Howell was the fact that he was active in his church and community.

It takes a lot of patience to work with house-building volunteers, and you have to do a lot of "redo's," Howell said. "Foresight is important. You have to be looking ahead. If you know 20 volunteers are coming on Saturday, you have to make sure the materials are there and the jobs for them to do."

He said he is ready to get to work and to continue his mission.