8 min read / April 23, 2019 / Leah Harnack
Safe, clean housing is the heart of a person’s well-being according to the recent report, “Housing as a Hub for Health, Community Services, and Upward Mobility,” by The Brookings Institution. Access to education, nutrition and healthcare have a lifelong impact on children and it is a significant determinant of success in life.
At Komatsu, we see ourselves as a valued community partner across the globe by being actively involved in a variety of local programs, including those that contribute to affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization. We have been working with Habitat for Humanity in cities across the U.S., helping them build homes and vibrant neighborhoods in the communities we reside.
Building homes, building dreams
Our partnership with Habitat for Humanity is a multi-faceted approach. Our employees volunteer their time building homes and many donate through payroll deduction, matched by the company. Financial support is also provided through our suppliers through a golf tournament each August.
Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. They partner with the people in the community to help build or improve a place they can call home.
Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside community volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. These homeowners achieve the independence they need to build a better life for themselves and their families.
Habitat for Humanity’s neighborhood revitalization work launched in 2010 in response to the economic and housing crisis. Its purpose is to transform blighted and demoralized neighborhoods that faced an epidemic of foreclosed and abandoned properties into vibrant, safe places to live by embracing an integrated, collaborative approach to community development.
Milwaukee HFH, the Habitat affiliate serving Milwaukee, Wisconsin, built its first home in 1984 and has been forging community partnerships with local organizations to dramatically increase homeownership opportunities. As part of neighborhood revitalization, it has focused on transforming blocks of empty lots in Midtown into a concentration of affordable single-family homes.
Since 2011, our Milwaukee-area employees have been working alongside Milwaukee HFH, building homes in the Washington Park neighborhood, minutes away from our National Avenue facility and where many of the employees grew up, live in, or live near.
Washington Park was chosen as Milwaukee HFH’s first Neighborhood Revitalization initiative. The strategy brings the organization and partners together, working together on the neighborhood. This neighborhood was chosen because of strong resident leadership and strong support from the local corporate partners, including Komatsu.
The neighborhood revitalization looked to build 150 new homes and offers homeowners the opportunity to apply for zero-interest, partially forgivable loans of up to $15,000 to assist with critical home repairs.
Every September the build season kicks off with its Home Builders Blitz week and construction of homes continues throughout the year. During the year, employees volunteer their time to frame the homes, hang dry wall and paint. As construction launches, we welcome and embrace a new family as part of our own, creating bonds with the future homeowners throughout the build process. In the end, we are fortunate to celebrate with them as the keys are turned over, moving trucks pull up, and their dream becomes a reality.
We regularly participate in Habitat for Humanity’s Home Builders Blitz, an annual week-long event that brings together local professional homebuilders with community partners, such as Komatsu, to build safe and affordable housing.
At one such home dedication, Komtasu Mining Corp. Vice President of Finance Bryan Johnson said, “We are honored to have played a role in the construction of your home. There were over 100 employees who contributed over 800 volunteer hours to help build this home. In that time, they made new friendships and learned new skills, but most importantly, they got to know you and helped make your dream possible.”
Employees in Longview, Texas, have also been supporting Habitat for Humanity through the Northeast Texas HFH, working on homes in their local community. The Longview facility brought employees together through International Women Build Week, where employees from various departments constructed homes. Three homes were part of the initiative and Motor Assembly III Sandra Terry swung a hammer since the start of the partnership, working on each of the homes.
“The thing I most value is the joy knowing that I helped take part in making someone else’s dreams come true to be a home owner,” said Sandra, “and watching the children hammer their address number on their house and hear them say, ‘I have my own room now.’”
First-time volunteer Administrative Assistant – Wheel Loader Engineering Monta Parker enjoyed the camaraderie and helping others. “I really enjoyed getting to know about Habitat and how it works ― the knowledge that we are helping a family purchase a house that otherwise could not buy without this help. I will do it again.”
Aftermarket Parts Coordinator Bonnie Hegeman was also adamant she will do it again. “You start the day automatically in a good mood because you know you are going to do good for someone who needs it and the day just gets better as it goes on.”
Northeast Texas HFH expanded its reach to serve three counties and since 1985, has extended a hand to more than 400 families experiencing poverty in Longview.
“Success in Longview made this growth possible and only occurred because companies such as Komatsu joined us as partners, donors, sponsors and volunteers,” said Northeast Texas HFH Executive Director LaJuan Hollis-Gordon. “Thank you for being an integral part of the Habitat mission.”
Each August Komatsu holds an annual golf tournament to benefit Habitat for Humanity in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The event brings together employees, community members and suppliers to join in our efforts to support Habitat’s mission. This year there were 28 suppliers — representing both surface and underground partners — that traveled from across the United State, Canada and Mexico.
A day of golf is followed by dinner, a silent and live auction, raffle, and an evening program with awards, including a presentation from Habitat for Humanity.
The success of the golf tournament, along with continued support from Komatsu and its employees, has played an integral role in Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity’s ability to make a measurable impact, most significantly through its Neighborhood Revitalization Imitative in the Washington Park Neighborhood.
Komatsu Mining Corp. President-Surface Mining John Koetz spoke to the impact a Habitat home can make, thanking suppliers for their commitment over the years while, reminding us the work is not done.
“We’re honored to partner with Habitat over the past eight years, resulting in 21 homes for families in the Milwaukee Washington Park and Midtown neighborhoods. We are excited to continue working together on the Midtown 100 project and beyond.”
Commenting on the greater impact a Habitat home can make Koetz added, “Habitat homeowners gain access to quality, affordable housing, which not only strengthens our city, but provides the foundation for better health, demonstrated educational achievement, and professional success.”
As emcee for the evening, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Brian Sonderman echoed this sentiment sharing, “When you help a family in need of safe, affordable housing you’re doing so much more than helping them afford a decent place to sleep at night. You are helping families break out of situations where they’re struggling with neighborhood safety, financial instability, or housing-related illnesses.”
We have a social responsibility to the communities in which we operate and organizations like Habitat for Humanity revitalize and enrich the neighborhoods surrounding our facilities where our employees, suppliers, customers and families live and play. Proceeds from the tournament will go a long way to further Milwaukee Habitat’s mission and reach.
None of this would be possible without the generous suppliers who supported the event. Threesome sponsors include: Accurate Metal Products, Altra Industrial Motion, American Roller Bearing Co., Anixter, AT&F, AWC Manufacturing L.P., Bensdorf and Abramson, Castle Metals, Conductix-Wampfler, Engman-Taylor Co. Inc., Frisa, Halvorsen, Industrial Maintenance Welding & Machining Co. Inc., Jadco, Kloeckner Metals, Matric Limited, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Nucor,OEM Fabricators Inc., Parker Hannifin Corp., PCC, Product Service & Manufacturing Inc., RBC Bearings Corp., Scot Forge, Southwestern Manufacturing Inc., The Timken Corp., Trade Tech Inc., Viking Electric, Womack Machine Supply.
Additional support was provided by: ABB, American Roller Bearing Co., Coil Manufacturing Inc., Delta Dental of Wisconsin, Finkl Steel, Fluid System Components Inc., McIver Engineering & Controls Inc., Metalworld Inc., Mid Valley Industries LLC, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Ogletree Deakins, R1VER, Southwestern Manufacturing Inc., SSAB, Trade Tech Inc., Universal Welding & Engineering Inc., Weldall Mfg. Inc., and Xerox.