Being a homeowner is an important piece of family and financial stability that a lot of us take for granted. However, for those with a less than stellar credit score out there, homeownership can feel like an out of grasp dream.
That’s why Habitat for Humanity exists. Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit that helps families obtain affordable housing through donations, voluntary labor, and mortgage payments from previous projects.
Our area’s most recent Habitat for Humanity build by our Lake Agassiz chapter had a little local business flair to it. Featuring 16 different C-Level Executives in the first annual “CEO Build”. This year-to-year event is another great opportunity for our business community to give back.
CEO Build Recipient: Kathy Benjamin
How you got involved with the CEO building Habitat for Humanity?
Yeah, that’s a loaded question. I had been aware of what Habitat for Humanity was, for a long time. A best friend of mine had a habitat house when she was around 14 years old, so I’ve been aware of it.
I’m a recovering addict, that’s the beginning of my story because it’s probably the biggest part of my story. I finally got clean a little over five years ago and I was able to achieve a lot once I finally got through that threshold. My addiction took me to some really deep dark places. My kids were in foster care, I was in jail and I had failed to change. I was really motivated to do better and be better because that same friend who had gotten a home through habitat actually passed away right before I got clean. That was my motivation to get clean.
Eventually, I thought about Habitat for Humanity and I knew I needed to ask for help. I tried to do things on my own and I couldn’t get anywhere. So now, I needed to ask for help. I applied for Habitat two years in a row. Last year, I had the opportunity but it was too far locationwise from where I was for me to accept it because of my foster care situation, so I had to decline. This year, the same situation happened, however, someone eventually dropped out of the CEO Build and I was able to accept it.
DID YOU KNOW? One of the biggest misconceptions about Habitat for Humanity Homes is that they are free to those receiving them. They are not. The recipients of Habitat Humanity homes pay for their homes through a favorable mortgage that allows them to pay as they are able.
What did addiction look like for you?
I work on the NA program and we don’t ever really categorize use. The substance is a substance–whether you’re addicted to one or the other doesn’t make a difference. But still, I was what we call a cross addict. Basically, anything you can think of is what I struggled with. It got bad enough where I was actually a needle user and an IV user, which is something I remember as a kid thinking was very gross. I was a very judgmental person which is funny because I came from a family of addiction. I actually have five brothers, a sister, my mom and my dad., but I don’t speak to any of my family because unfortunately, they are still lost in active addiction and I am the only one that is not.
Can you tell me more about that turning point?
It was my best friend passing away. We called each other sisters and everybody knew us as such. We were close since we were 12. I grew up in foster care up until I was eight, then I lived with my dad for a year. For whatever reason, he wasn’t able to take care of me, so, he actually put me back in the system. Because of that happening, I ended up back with my mom and my mom was still in active addiction. She was very abusive, so, I grew up in a very, very, very toxic home. I have a wonderful stepdad from it. He’s the one person I do have and consider family. But back then, I didn’t really have people around me. So, when I connected with my friend, Laila, we became really, really close. We were like that all the way up through when she passed away.
My addiction got really bad the year she actually passed away. It pulled me away from her and I have a lot of guilt for that because she did die by suicide. On several occasions, she would cry for me to get better and stuff like that and I didn’t take her seriously because I was using. I didn’t have the emotional empathy. I couldn’t feel what she needed me to feel.
When she died, I decided that I needed to get clean. Her birthday was June 10. I was trying to plan it for her birthday, but addicts don’t plan very well. So, I ended up going clean three days later on June 13, 2016. That’s my clean date and I’ve been clean ever since.
What was your reaction when you found out you’d be able to participate in the CEO Build?
I was super excited. I feel like CEOs are such a great example and people to look up to. I have a high level of motivation and I feel like I can relate to them.
Does it feel like this adds to your “second chance” in life?
Yes, this is literally like the missing block to it. I needed to get a house, but everything was keeping me held back. So, when I finally got that opportunity, I felt like my life’s complete. I’ll still come up with a new goal now, you know, because that’s just how I am, I’ll find another one. But was like the biggest one that I had. It’s really setting my family up for success. I have two foster kids, my nieces, and they’ve never known having their own house. My children are going to finally found out what its like to have home. Hopefully, it sets a standard for them of how things should be when they become an adult.
Is there anything fun that you are you most excited about with home ownership?
I obsess over the thoughts of what I would do at my own house all the time. I do rent a house right now, but you can’t really make it your own. I want a hammock in the backyard. I want to get a really nice playground for my kids and I’m very excited to start some family Christmas traditions.
Is there anything else we should know?
Just that I’m really super appreciative and I’m really thankful for anything that comes my way. This is a huge opportunity, and I’m not going to forget it and neither will my kids.
The 2022 CEO Build will be chaired by Katherine Kiernan of Asprie Realty. Others looking to get involved should reach out to [email protected].