Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity celebrates 40 years of building community and hope

The Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity will celebrate 40 years of building communities at their annual Home for the Holidays gala. The gala on Dec. 1 will be an opportunity to not only support the organization, but also learn more about their future plans.

“This is our 40th anniversary, and I want us to reflect on what we've done in the past and get ready to embrace our future. There are a few new things coming that will be announced at the gala that I think the entire greater Savannah area is really going to be excited about, and we're excited to share them as well,” said Zerik Samples, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity.

The annual Home for the Holidays gala raises funds to help families realize their dream of home ownership. According to the
2022 Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity Annual Report, Chatham County lacks 15,000 affordable housing units.

Coastal Habitat for Humanity's mission seeks to “put God’s love into action," and eliminate poverty, housing, and homelessness from the world.

Since 1983, Coastal Habitat for Humanity has built more than 150 houses for families throughout Chatham County, and over a quarter of those families have paid off their mortgages.

“One of the biggest misconceptions is that Habitat for Humanity gives homes away. I’ve made it my business to open dialog to show that hardworking family members who are often frontline workers are paying a mortgage on their habitat home,” said Samples.

Mortgage payments from Habitat homeowners along with volunteers and donated materials help the organization build more homes for deserving families in the Coastal Empire. Habitat for Humanity partners with low-income, working families to realize their dream of owning quality, affordable, and energy-efficient homes in Chatham County. Families are assessed based on income, need, ability, and willingness to partner.

“People must show that they have a need to qualify. They're either living in substandard conditions, they're living in overcrowded conditions, or they're renting and paying more than 30 percent of their household income toward housing,” said Samples.

Once in the program, they become partner families. Partner families contribute "sweat equity"—an investment of labor towards the construction of their future home. To receive a Habitat home, the partner family must complete 350 sweat equity hours; 150 hours can be completed by using your "helpers".

“It feels amazing. As a single mother, this is exciting for us. I worked very hard to make sure we have a stable home, somewhere comfortable for us to live forever, that we will own,” said Brittany Jackson who broke ground on her house in 2021.

On average, the program takes about two years to complete. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, however, construction delays have caused families to wait three years or more. The Wolf family had experienced such delays, but they were able to purchase their home this year.

“It spoke to the perseverance that this family embarked on. They understood what the assignment was. They wanted to leave a legacy for their children, and they wanted a safe, affordable place for their children to grow up and play. I feel so blessed to be a part of their story through habitat,” said Samples.

Throughout the year, Coastal Habitat For Humanity has many events and community partners that help them achieve their goals. Apart from their annual gala, Samples said there’s several ways the community can support the organization.

“We have this beautiful thing called Volunteer Hub on our website where people can sign up. People can volunteer at our ReStore on Mlk Jr. Blvd. Or you can volunteer for special events or on our construction site, and that's Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Or just donate,” said Samples.

More information about the gala and how to volunteer can be found at


Kareem McMichael

Kareem McMichael is a filmmaker, documentarian, writer, and multimedia content creator. The Macon native enjoys entertainment, and sharing with locals and visitors’ stories about Savannah’s art and culture scene. When he is not working, he enjoys relaxing at the beach, grabbing a beverage, hitting a fun art event,...
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