Guest Blog: Saginaw-Shiawassee and Dow

Today's blog is the third of our three award winners of the Dow Chemical Company's blog contest, conducted in September. 

Dow’s Human Element, helping us take it from good to great! 

It was 2008. Plans for Dow to build a new house with our Saginaw affiliate were in the works. However, the City of Saginaw was already experiencing the beginning of the housing market crash. Foreclosures were picking up and there were plenty of empty houses. A new build in the City of Saginaw was no longer making sense. We kept racking our brains and batting ideas around.

“Maybe we would buy a vacant house and renovate it? Or, maybe we could try something new… maybe Dow would like to take their gift and spread it throughout a whole neighborhood?”

The conversation with Dow went something like this:

“So, what if we took 300 hundred of our volunteers and you bring 300 employees and we scrape and paint houses and clean lots in a neighborhood for a week? What if we could have wider impact on a number of families in a neighborhood instead of working on one house and one family at a time? “

“Wow! That seems like a great idea. We just don’t know if we can get 300 employees that would like to help Saginaw.”

Dow had to cut off registration at 700! They bussed volunteers in twice a day for the entire project and kept things moving along faster than anticipated.

In order to grow, everyone likes to play tennis with someone that is a little better than themselves. 

Dow brought a degree of sophistication we didn’t have. They were just what we needed at that time to help us take it to the next level.

That first year a team of six or so Dow employees and our affiliate planned the first Neighborhood Revitalization. In between our numerous meetings, we recruited homeowners by going door-to-door. We planned food for hundreds. We figured out the details of assessing the needs of houses, of managing volunteers, as well as the logistics of dispersing them to multiple houses at once.

That week we scraped and painted 44 houses and cleaned 62 lots in the Covenant Neighborhood in the City of Saginaw. It was an historic event for our affiliate—2008 was our first taste of working with owner-occupied homes!

Fast Forward

Everything went so well that Dow worked in a neighborhood with the Bay County affiliate in 2009 and Midland County in 2010.  It was Saginaw’s turn to work with Dow in 2011. Again, things were about to change.

“Well, what if each affiliate takes a third of the money that we would receive every three years, but we each work in a neighborhood every year with Dow volunteers?”

And thus, we were making Habitat history again!

The 2011 Great Lakes Bay Neighborhood Revitalization was held in August with over 700 Dow volunteers. This event was Habitat for Humanity International’s first-ever regional Neighborhood Revitalization!

Dow helped us change how we do business forever.

We took what we learned with Dow and duplicated it in various neighborhoods.  Each year we complete at least four Neighborhood Revitalizations—

  • one with Dow, and
  • Shiawassee communities
  • Freeland
  • Buena Vista Charter Township.

Neighborhood Revitalization blitzes for owner-occupied homes are now a normal part of how we operate. Our affiliate completes about 5-6 new, rehabs or recycles and about 50-75 repairs a year.

We are grateful for Dow’s generosity in gifting their innovative products; but we are most grateful for the Human Element!

Dow has saved our Habitat affiliate hundreds of thousands of dollars in products over time! We are grateful to Dow for all the products available for affiliates to use on new builds, rehabs, recycles and critical home repairs. The gift of their products also have a multiplying effect, since they are designed to save families hundreds of dollars each year in energy costs. All in all, Dow has contributed products, money or volunteers to over 360 houses at our affiliate (190 new and rehabbed houses and 171 critical home repairs).

In 2008 and from 2011 to today, Dow has had over 2,400 employees volunteer in Neighborhood Revitalizations with our affiliate, totaling more than 12,200 volunteer hours. 

Cameron Brady & Carmen Mora
Saginaw-Shiawassee Habitat for Humanity