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Habitat Young Professionals Chapter develops leaders through programming

Participants (Mesa’s Erin Soto farthest left) of the Habitat Young Professionals program at the inaugural Habitat Young Professionals meeting on Feb. 7 at Canyon 49 on the Grand Canyon University campus. (Micaela Cheatham/Special to MyNewsMesa.com)

Building houses, skills and confidence, Habitat for Humanity has long supported those in need to provide affordable housing—and they’re expanding their reach with an additional program to develop young professionals communicate Habitat’s mission through volunteering, fundraising and advocacy.

Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona hosted its inaugural meeting for the Habitat Young Professionals chapter in February.

“The goal is to educate them, help further them in their career by giving them public speaking training and generally educating them and putting them in scenarios where they’re challenged to be leaders,” said Micaela Cheatham, assistant director of sponsor relations for Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona, who oversees the Habitat Young Professionals chapter.

According to Habitat for Humanity documentation, “Habitat Young Professionals (HYP) aims to inspire, mobilize and connect young professionals to Habitat’s mission of creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” The objectives include educating chapter members, the local community and members’ networks about the work and mission of Habitat, advocate on behalf of people in need of decent shelter, raise funds for the work of Habitat for Humanity and participate and create space for transformational leadership and professional development.

HYP is a volunteer program aimed at participants between 22 and 40 years old. It is a chance for those who are building their career; Cheatham said they want to offer leadership opportunities and networking to participants to give their careers a boost.

“Ideally, we’d like for some of them to become future board members for Habitat as they get further along in their career and have that capability,” he said.

One participant of the Habitat Young Professionals chapter is Mesa resident Erin Soto. The engineer got involved with Habitat as a volunteer in August 2016 and in December was informed about the HYP program starting up earlier this year.

Soto is a leader in training, learning about the construction process to become a team leader. She attended the inaugural meeting for the HYP in February and one last month that discussed advocacy about Habitat’s mission.

“They told us what their goals are for the group as far as us getting involved in the organization,” Soto said she and other young professionals were told by Habitat staff at the inaugural meeting in February. In addition to “taking the message of Habitat to the community.”

By participating in the HYP chapter, Soto said she enjoys “getting the chance to be a part of the organization in a different way…I felt I’d make a bigger impact.”

Soto said she volunteered through high school and college and after she graduated, she focused on her career, but last August she felt like something was missing—that piece was volunteering.

“I decided I wanted to get involved in something again,” Soto said. “I chose Habitat because it was really aligned with my interest as far as construction activities and their values and mission really spoke to me.”

The participants of the Habitat Young Professionals chapter are helping each other grow, Soto said. “They (Habitat staff) are helping us and we’re helping the organization. I think it’s going to prepare us to be leaders and be the voice and future of the organization.”

Soto said what appealed to her about volunteering with Habitat, was being able to do something active and learn something, in addition to the easy sign-up process to volunteer.

“Everyone I’ve encountered at Habitat, both the staff and the volunteers are super friendly, it’s a very comfortable environment,” Soto said. “The people I work with on the volunteering side, the team leader I work with makes it very easy to learn. He always says, ‘No mistake is too great, if you make a mistake while you’re volunteering, it can be fixed, so don’t be afraid to do it.’ I love Habitat because it feels like a family.”

In addition to the HYP chapter, Habitat has four ReStore locations including one in Mesa, which are similar to Goodwill, but instead of clothing, sell home improvement products such as furniture, appliances, home accessories and building materials at a discounted price. Habitat families get a 50 percent discount in the ReStores to help furnish their homes.

Cheatham said one of the young professionals is an interior designer, and will be working with Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores to put together Pinterest projects to share and tag Habitat for Humanity within the boards he creates to be a source of inspiration for families and Habitat staff to use.

“So that’s exactly what we’re looking for, is being able to offer somebody something that’s not only going to be helpful for their career…but take us along with them,” Cheatham said.

The monthly meetings for HYP focus on public speaking, networking and advocacy—focusing on funding and how it benefits the community, in addition to the young professionals who represent Habitat to spread their message in the community. This month, HYP is having a networking event to learn how to interact with people in an engaging way, Cheatham said.

“We’re just hoping that it grows and takes on a life of its own and becomes something that isn’t run by the organization, but lifts up the organization,” Cheatham said.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity, volunteering, or the Habitat Young Professionals chapter, visit: Habitatcaz.org.

– Mesa resident Alyssa Tufts is a freelance reporter for MyNewsMesa.com.

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