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A year ago, Scott Turner worked at a corporation and spent most of his time traveling across the country. He left the company last May and began assisting a friend in his local business.
While helping, Turner said he developed a friendship with an employee who lived in a motel in south Elizabethtown. That friendship, he said, opened his eyes to a lifestyle he wasn’t aware existed in the Hardin County area.
Through research and social interactions, Turner said he discovered there are many families, not only locally but statewide and nationally, who live from week-to-week in temporary housing such as motels because they’re unable to establish permanency.
“Because of their income or something that happened in their lives, they couldn’t get to a point where they could pay deposits or have enough money for a down payment, utilities, whatever it takes to establish that,” he said.
“That really opened a lot up to me,” Turner said. “There’s a huge need out there.”
In December, Turner was tapped to serve as the full-time executive director of Hardin County’s Habitat for Humanity. His goal is to increase the organization’s output and reduce housing poverty in the area, he said.
Former executive director Larry Mengel, who led the local Habitat for more than 10 years, said he approached the organization’s board about hiring a full-time, paid director about a year ago.
“I requested the board hire a full-time director,” he said. “I said to them, ‘I’m 72 years old. I can’t be here forever.’”
A portion of Turner’s salary is paid through grant money while the new director is responsible for securing enough money to cover the rest, Mengel said.
According to Mengel, the board interviewed about 10 applicants. Turner had a “tremendous” background and Mengel had experience working with him at build sites.
Turner, a resident of Elizabethtown, also is familiar with Hardin County as he has lived in the area most of his life, Mengel said.
In 19 years, the organization has built 46 homes in Hardin County and averages about two to three homes per year. Turner said he hopes to increase that to three to four per year by recruiting more volunteers.
He would like to see 10 to 12 volunteers on site from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday, Turner said, and to accomplish that, Habitat is signing more volunteer groups, such as from churches or schools.
Besides increasing the organization’s output, Turner said he also seeks to dispel several myths about Habitat for Humanity, such as how families come to live in a Habitat home and the quality of the houses.
“It’s not, ‘Let’s throw this together and get somebody in there,’” he said. “Our process is pretty lengthy. We don’t even start building until we have a family selected.”
Though Mengel said he’s “fading into the woodwork a bit,” he is not retiring and will continue to volunteer with Habitat “until they carry me out in a box.”
Mengel continues to oversee Habitat Home Repair and is a board member, he said. He also serves on several of the organization’s committees.
The Friday of his first week as executive director, Turner said he sat with a couple as they closed the mortgage on their new Habitat home.
According to Turner, the couple smiled as they signed each document, and as they exited the title office that morning, Turner said he saw them embrace.
“She hugged her husband and said, ‘We own our own home,’” Turner recalled. “That was so cool to know we made a dream come true for this couple.”
Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or email@example.com.