GDM Habitat Key Awards honor local partners.
Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity (GDM Habitat), like all Habitat affiliates in the U.S., is founded on the “conviction that every person should have a decent, safe, and affordable place to live.”
Every project that bears the Habitat name brings people together for that purpose—whether it’s an Extreme Build (see “Extremely Meaningful,” October issue), a Rock the Block® event, or distributing salvaged materials and products through the ReStore.
But GDM Habitat doesn’t just bring people together to “put God’s love into action.” Part of the organization’s mission is to recognize other individuals and organizations in the community that have been integral in creating affordable housing for those in need.
The 2021 Habitat Key Awards were presented September 30, recognizing one individual and three organizations for their efforts in the Des Moines metro area.
“This was our ninth year presenting the Key Awards,” says Jenna Ekstrom, Director of Development and Marketing for GDM Habitat. “We typically recognize four to six people or companies annually.”
Based on nominations and approval from its internal selection committee, GDM Habitat finalizes the year’s recipients and honors them at the annual Key Awards Gala.
“The Key Awards were named to reflect the Habitat mission, which is to recognize that homeownership is the key to successful, safe self-sufficiency,” Ekstrom says. “The Gala often includes a keynote speaker, recognition of the recipients, and then an opportunity for the recipients to speak.
This year the evening’s activities included a Q&A session with a partner family to present a tangible connection to Habitat’s mission, and rather than hear from a keynote speaker, GDM Habitat introduced its 2021–2023 strategic plan. “The Gala was a great time to roll this out because this audience understands our mission and the challenges we’re addressing,” Ekstrom explains.
The strategic plan for 2021–2023 includes looking at the role Habitat plays in the racial wealth gap. “We know that homeownership is the number-one way families in the United States build wealth,” Ekstrom says. “Historically, black families and Latinos have been denied this opportunity at rates significantly greater than their white peers. Strategic-plan initiatives like doubling the number of home buyers and increasing access to credit will work to address this issue in Central Iowa.”
The 2021 Key Awards winners, recognized for “their outstanding efforts in building homes, communities, and hope,” included Iowa Finance Authority, Meredith Drive Reformed Church, Corteva Agriscience, and attorney Antonio Colacino.
Over the past two decades, Iowa Finance Authority has helped make mortgages affordable for more than forty GDM Habitat partner families through the Authority’s Homeownership Assistance Program.
Meredith Drive Reformed Church has partnered with GDM Habitat for three decades, contributing more than $175,000 in financial support and participating in everything from serving lunch for volunteers to contributing time on international builds.
Corteva has sponsored every Key Awards event thus far as part of its 20-year partnership with GDM Habitat. In addition, Corteva employees have built the walls for 16 Habitat homes, created a neighborhood pollinator garden for the Birdland Neighborhood project, and sponsored numerous events over the years.
By providing pro bono real estate and title services to GDM Habitat, attorney Antonio Colacino has helped make homeownership affordable for hundreds of families for more than a decade. His expertise has ensured that every property built by GDM Habitat and purchased by a partner family would be clear of legal issues.
“This year’s recipients were all longtime GDM Habitat partners in some way,” says Ekstrom, “but that isn’t always the case. The Key Awards are our way of recognizing individuals and organizations that share our mission, whether it’s through partnerships with Habitat or through their own efforts.”
Each year, GDM Habitat works to provide affordable homes for qualifying families by constructing new homes and revitalizing neighborhoods. GDM Habitat also provides housing counseling and financial education classes. Part of the funding for these efforts comes from sales at two ReStore locations in the metro area.
“Each one of these programs promotes the self-sufficiency and stability of partnering families,” Ekstrom says. “By the end of 2021, our goal is to create 26 homeownership opportunities, complete 250 Rock the Block® home repair projects, and educate more than 100 households through our Financial Foundation for Success program.”
The GDM Habitat team tends to dream big. Thanks to partners such as those honored at last month’s Key Awards, those aren’t pipe dreams. They’re achievable goals.