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Cairo Mayor Howard Thrower III, said this week he is optimistic about the opportunity of bringing Habitat for Humanity back to Cairo and Grady County.
Following two previous meetings, the mayor invited Thomasville-Thomas County Habitat for Humanity Chief Executive Officer Richard Massa Jr., to the Cairo City Council meeting Monday night.
Massa shared with the council his vision for Habitat for Humanity in Southwest Georgia and his aggressive plan to expand the reach of the organization in communities like Cairo and Grady County.
“Habitat is not a gimme program. It’s not a program that comes with government assistance. What Habitat is is an economic driver. What you may not realize is that Habitat creates tax base, jobs, and community involvement,” Massa said.
The Habitat official also told city leaders that he and the organization he represents are not looking for funding from the city, but are interested in partnering with the city as well as the county to create additional opportunities for affordable housing in the community.
He said that in Thomas County, Habitat has also done work on restoration of existing homes, which has made a big impact on that community.
Massa said that in Thomas County last year Habitat was successful in obtaining approximately $600,000 from the Community Home Investment Program (CHIP) through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to renovate eight houses.
The Habitat CEO said he would be interested in partnering with the City of Cairo on some CHIP funded projects or to build on property the city might own to put the lot back on the tax rolls.
When Habitat for Humanity had a local chapter and was active in Grady County previously, the organization was operated entirely differently. According to Massa, volunteers are welcomed to be involved, but he does not depend on volunteer labor to build affordable homes.
“We run Habitat like a business and we are in the business of building homes and putting families in homes they can afford,” Massa said.
The Thomas County chapter C.E.O. said he was hired a year ago to take over the operation in Thomas County and to expand it.
Not only is Habitat being operated differently even compared to just five years ago, Massa said the typical Habitat home owner is different now. According to Massa, a Habitat home owner may be a sheriff’s deputy or a teacher.
In 2020, even with the pandemic, Massa said that Habitat constructed five new homes in Thomas County.
What has not changed about Habitat, Massa told the city council, is that the organization remains Christ centered. “Our goal, always, is to do good in the world,” he said.
Massa said Habitat, in partnership with the City of Cairo, can “transform the city and county in a positive direction.”
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to bring Habitat for Humanity back to Cairo and Grady County. I’ve had two prior meetings with Rich and we have a great opportunity to create additional, affordable housing in our community, which is very much needed,” said Mayor Thrower.
The council took no action Monday night, but the mayor says that he and the council as well as the city manager will continue the discussion and explore the best path to take in moving forward.