Canton’s Habitat for Humanity affiliate disbands

Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity has announced its dissolution, effective Oct. 2. Photo by Bidvine from Pexels

CANTON — An organization that has built or renovated 16 homes in its area of operation has announced its dissolution.

The Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity affiliate had served the area for more than 20 years until its dissolution, which was effective Oct. 2.

However, because of paperwork requirements for dissolution of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, it could take up to six months to become official. The dissolution plan is currently with the affiliate’s attorney for review and must be approved by the attorney general. Then the affiliate can apply for a certificate of dissolution.

Once complete, the affiliate will donate its holdings to similar 501(c)(3) organizations with the same mission.

William Fassinger, president of the Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, has been with the organization for about 13 years.

“This was pondered for a long, long time. The people that are involved with the board really believe in the mission and vision of Habitat International. We believe there’s a need up here,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking. I really believe in this organization.”

The local Habitat for Humanity affiliate served Norwood, Norfolk, Massena, Rensselaer Falls and the towns of Canton and Potsdam. Since its inception on Oct. 3, 1989, it has built or renovated 16 homes in its area of operation. In addition to building and renovation, the affiliate has completed a number of home preservation projects and answered numerous calls for service.

But, Mr. Fassinger said, a number of factors were considered before they chose to dissolve. That included the rising costs of building, rising mortgage rates, the aging of the board of directors, and a lack of committed volunteers to serve on the board of directors.

Mr. Fassinger said a new building that they completed in Norwood could be done for about $75 a square foot “understanding we didn’t charge for labor. Now it’s $100-plus. If I build a 1,200-square-foot house without charging labor, I’m coming in at $100,000-plus. Then look at things like taxes and utilities. We also have to look at the assessed values of properties around it.”

Mr. Fassinger said, as an example, if it’s costing them about $110,000 to build the home with no labor costs, and assessed values in the area are $75,000, the assessor could decide to appraise it around $77,000.

“We have to go by the appraised value,” he said. “It’s a $20,000 loss.”

Another issue faced by Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity was a lack of board members. The board’s bylaws authorize 20 individuals on the board, and they currently have six.

“A couple of the younger people are working full-time and taking care of their families, and I fully understand that,” Mr. Fassinger said. “Take those two folks out of the picture and that leaves four of us. I’m the youngest. I’m going to be 66.”

He said that’s becoming a common occurrence with other affiliates also.

“People are aging out,” he said.

In addition, new requirements from Habitat for Humanity International will make it difficult for smaller affiliates like Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity. Mr. Fassinger said every Habitat for Humanity affiliate will need to meet the same requirements, whether they’re a small or large organization, and whether they have paid members or a volunteer board.

Getting volunteers to help build, however, was never a problem, he said.

“Without a strong volunteer base, many of the projects over the years would not have reached completion,” he said.

SUNY Canton and St. Lawrence University have campus affiliates and, although there are no affiliates at Clarkson University or SUNY Potsdam, Mr. Fassinger said they would always get calls from groups at those colleges who wanted to assist. He said they even had an airline pilot who assisted them.

“He would come out and work with us on the days he was not flying,” he said.

Local vendors also assisted and provided materials, including J.C. Merriman’s Building Supply, Bicknell Building Supply, Coakley’s Ace Hardware, Triple A Building Supply and the Lowe’s stores located in Potsdam and Ogdensburg.

Mr. Fassinger said that, although Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity is closing its doors, other local agencies can pick up some of the mission. North Country Housing Council, for instance, does not do builds, but they do assist with repairs, and Helping Hands in Potsdam has “the same type of mission, the same type of vision.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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