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When you picture Habitat for Humanity’s mission in action, it may look a lot like swarms of volunteer builders wearing hard hats and swinging hammers. What you might be missing are all the community partners and the team behind the scenes.

Since Habitat for Humanity’s founding in 1976, the nonprofit and its volunteers have built more than 500,000 houses around the world. And that legacy continues at Habitat Kent, a nonprofit organization serving Kent County, Michigan. “Many people think that Habitat for Humanity gives homes away, but the families we partner with volunteer for over 12 months and over 200 hours building homes and participating in education programs,” said Bev Thiel from Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. “We provide a hand up, not a handout.”

Revitalizing Neighborhoods

Many local Habitats partner with residents, community leaders and local groups to help spruce up neighborhoods.

In the past three years, local Habitats involved in neighborhood revitalization have participated in more than 7,500 community projects, from renovating community centers to helping build community gardens.

Habitat for Humanity’s mission is one that a lot of local community partners get behind, including Quality Edge. That’s why, when Habitat Kent initiated a multi-family project for two deserving families, Quality Edge committed to donating all exterior siding and trim. But that wasn’t all. Beyond providing the product, delivery and training for installers, Quality Edge hired designer Michelle Bjorum to paint a vision for the project—colors and details that would coordinate beautifully and give the homeowners a distinctive place to call home.

“Habitat for Humanity explained that they wanted to show the two families a handful of options that provide a unique look and go together,” said Michelle. “I started with a couple directions that unified the two units to look like a single-family home, but then began to wonder if the families might like to be able to differentiate between their sides.”

While many newer builds are going with a modern farmhouse feel, I wanted this house to feel like it had always been part of the neighborhood.

Michelle Bjorum, Home Joy Studio

Without a designer like Michelle, the duplex might have been a single color, “But maybe the homeowners would like to be able to say, ‘It’s the light green one!’ with no need to further explain which unit was theirs,” Michelle said. “My thought was that by creating differentiation, it might also create an even greater sense of pride in ownership.”

So that’s what she did.

At the same time, Michelle didn’t want the two units to look wildly different. “It’s important to keep some elements consistent to create a cohesive look,” she said. “I opted to explore some combinations of blues and greens. From there, I worked within the Quality Edge palette to create a couple monochromatic options I thought would work well within the neighborhood.” Right away, Habitat for Humanity was on board with the direction, and the families were just as excited.

There’s a pride that develops in a person who has a permanent stake in their neighborhood.

Bev Thiel, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County

With a vision in place, the building began—and a few weeks into the construction the TruCedar® Steel Siding and trim pieces arrived, along with trainers from Quality Edge. “The collaboration with the designer Quality Edge provided—as well as the training—made us feel confident in our skills to work with this steel siding, a product new to us,” said Bev. “We are not used to getting that level of support from our suppliers, so Quality Edge was very unique in that regard.”

Today, the siding is up, the walls are painted, and the two families have a place they’re proud to call home. “There’s a pride that develops in a person who has a permanent stake in their neighborhood,” said Bev. “We see what happens when anxiety is replaced with hope.”

Habitat for Humanity is always looking to build new community partnerships.

You can volunteer, provide financial support or make an in-kind donation. Learn more by visiting or by calling 616.774.2431.

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