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Getting back to building
Habitat for Humanity looks for new start with help of churches
george groce 1
George Groce told the group, "It is a tremendous opportunity to do God's work and be involved in Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County." - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

The economic downturn has hit a number of local people, businesses and organizations hard in recent years, and Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County is no different.

Local contributions to the non-profit, Christian housing ministry have declined, and the Effingham County chapter has not been able to build a home for a family in need since last summer.

“We just need to get it going,” said George Groce, resource director for Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County.

“Habitat has gone through some bad times just like everybody else, just because of the economic situation,” said Floyd Zettler, who owns Zettler Custom Homes and has built Habitat houses in Effingham and other communities. “Habitat wants to get our county more involved and get back on track to building at least two homes, maybe three homes a year.”

To do that, Habitat is reaching out to the organizations many consider the heart of a community — churches.

 Habitat hosted a breakfast Wednesday at Rincon United Methodist Church, where several local pastors and other church leaders heard how their congregations could become more involved in Habitat’s mission.

“The key to it is the churches,” Zettler said. “If you look at literature from other counties and other states, the churches are the leading force in the successful Habitat affiliates.”

Habitat is in the midst of raising money for its next two houses in Effingham. The homeowners will be Cristal Boyles, an Army veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, and Nancy Clifton, a 72-year-old who cares for the five grandchildren living with her.

“We need to build her house,” Groce said of Clifton, who was in attendance. “She’s been on the list too long.”

Habitat must raise $50,000-$60,000 for each house it builds in Effingham County, explained executive director Jimmy Rutland. The local chapter is about $20,000 shy of being able to build the homes for Boyles and Clifton.

While financial contributions are always welcome, donations of building materials or appliances can also be given. Zettler also encouraged the churches to commit to making an annual donation, so Habitat knows it can count on that money each year.

“We want each church to pray on what God would want you to donate toward that $20,000,” he said. “Next year, we want churches to pray about putting (contributions to) Habitat in their budgets.”

Bob Rogers, pastor of First Baptist Church of Rincon, shared the story of Habitat’s “Loving Our Neighbor” project in 2009, in which nine Effingham County churches partnered to build and finance a house for the family of a man who died of cancer — his widow and their five sons.

“We can do that again,” Zettler said. “That was a small amount of churches compared to the churches we have in the county.”

Habitat of Effingham last dedicated a house on Sept. 9, 2012, but that doesn’t mean the organization hasn’t been active. In the past two years, Rutland said, Habitat has renovated about 15 houses through its critical home repair program.

Also, Habitat raises money at its ReStore on Highway 21 in Rincon. Volunteers are needed to work at the store, as well as on a number of local Habitat committees, Rutland said.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t receive,” said Habitat of Effingham founder Morris Oglesby. “All my life, I’ve never asked for anything that God didn’t find a way to provide for.”

David Sharp, student pastor at First Baptist Church of Springfield, closed the program with this message: “Is God working in Effingham County? Yes. Is God working in every church represented here today? Yes. Let’s work together and build something.”

How you can help

For more information on getting involved with Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County, call (912) 826-6433 or visit