By William Kennedy

Annie Leadingham didn’t know anyone when she moved to town. She volunteered at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore location in West Eugene to get acquainted with her new city. And she has worked for the organization ever since, currently as its development and marketing director.

“​If you’re new to this community, and you want to understand who your community is,” Leadingham says, ReStore is a great place to start.

The community-building Leadingham describes is just one aspect of Habitat for Humanity, an international organization with branches across the U.S. Habitat for Humanity of Central Lane, in Eugene, is one of three affiliates in Lane County, along with others in Junction City and Florence.

Habitat for Humanity is perhaps best known for constructing affordable housing with volunteer labor and professional expertise. In early April, Habitat for Humanity of Central Lane was building five tandem homes in Cottage Grove in collaboration with University of Oregon architecture students, and six tandem homes — 12 residences — at Springfield’s Fisher Village development. Fisher Village, the organization’s largest-ever housing project in the area, is expected to be complete in 2026.

Habitat for Humanity also serves Lane County through homeowner education and low-cost, low-interest mortgages in conjunction with DevNW, an affordable housing development and financing company.

“It’s hard to buy a house,” Leadingham says. Along with skyrocketing home prices due to high interest rates and low inventory, getting a mortgage typically requires a 20% down payment, or around $80,000 with Lane County’s average home prices.

Habitat for Humanity of Central Lane’s financial education program helps prospective local homebuyers learn what it takes to own a home and save for expenses. Those who complete the program and other Habait-specific requisites aren’t required to have a down payment to secure the low-interest, equal-opportunity mortgage loan, Leadingham says.

“We’ve had wonderful stories from Habitat families who got into these homes and became more financially stable,” Leadingham adds. “To be stable in a home, without having to move all the time to find a cheaper rent, blossoms a family into a different level.”

Leadingham keeps a Christmas card from a Habitat family, with a testimonial from the mother written inside. Her sons are “doing great things because they had a stable home,” the message says.

Leadingham emphasizes that nothing Habitat accomplishes in Lane County would be possible without the help of volunteers, and she urges anyone interested to get involved at the ReStore location, in an administrative task, or on a job site, even with no prior construction experience, working with a general contractor overseeing the project. There are lots of levels of volunteer opportunities, including things as low-intensity as putting Habitat for Humanity stickers on promotional bottles of bubbles for children.

The volunteer-run ReStore collects and sells a mix of low-cost donated or salvaged construction items frequently used by professional contractors, artists, and those looking for affordable items for DIY projects. Leadingham says several women have volunteered with the nonprofit and discovered an unknown interest in building, and subcontractors employed by Habitat for Humanity come from diverse backgrounds whenever possible.

Although she now works in development and marketing, Leadingham learned how to hang drywall as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer after she spent time at ReStore. “We have a group of women that come out. They like to do concrete,” Leadingham adds. “You never know where you’re going to find your passion. “

For those new to town, like Leadingham once was, “I always recommend volunteering to anyone trying to figure out their new surroundings,” she says, underscoring that every volunteer counts. “It’s going to take all of us to house all of us.”

Habitat for Humanity in Lane County