Building Hope

by Feb 4, 2021Nonprofits, North Brunswick

Thanks to a team of community helpers, Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity builds more than homes in Brunswick County.

When April Flowers and her 3-year-old niece, Aiyana, arrive at the jobsite of the latest Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity home, excitement ensues. The cement truck pulls up to pour not just a home foundation, but the foundation of a new chapter of their lives. Flowers and her niece are the partner-family for this house, and Flowers beams recalling how she felt when she received the approval call that she had qualified for a house.

“I was excited and a ball of nerves,” she says. “With Habitat I get stability and safety for my niece. She’ll have a backyard — her own safe haven. I’m so grateful to Habitat for Humanity for helping me make this dream come true.”

Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Carlo Montagano eagerly shares his optimism and passion for seeing that vision become a tangible reality. Habitat’s vision statement is “to help create a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity Volunteers

The process of applying for a home may begin by attending a community-based informational meeting in which current Habitat homeowners conduct a question and answer session about their experience with the program. According to Tamara Morales, Brunswick County’s Habitat development director, Flowers learned of the program at one of these and applied for her home in September 2019.

Eligibility for application includes an income of 35 to 70 percent of the median income for the area. In addition, current living conditions must be unsuitable for various reasons. Becoming a partner-family requires sweat equity from the applicant, which may involve working in Habitat ReStores, helping at the main office or working at the homesite. Applicants to become partner-families may request a certain city/area where they wish to build. Zero interest mortgage arrangements are made through Habitat’s lending services. Qualified partner-families are obligated to meet monthly mortgage payments, real estate taxes, insurance and utilities.

Montagano came to Habitat after 25 years of business success. He had paused to reflect on his life and consider if there was more he could do to give back to others. Although he had been donating time with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Knights of Columbus and hospice, he sought greater fulfillment. He reflected upon philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “That the purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, honorable, compassionate and have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Recognizing that affordable housing is a universal need, Montagano returned to college in Connecticut and earned an MA degree in human services. He completed his graduate internship at Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity in New Hanover County.

“I was hired by Brunswick Habitat to lead the affiliate to the next level of growth,” he says. “We hired more staff, instituted process and increased capacity and safety. Although COVID-19 caused shutdowns in all three thrift shops, I am grateful for the continuous flow of new volunteer applications from the community.”

Habitat for Humanity’s business model relies on three main sources of revenue: profit from the ReStores, donations and grants. ReStores in Brunswick County are in Leland, Southport and Ocean Isle Beach. Income is generated by selling goods that have been donated and sanitized.

onations come from many charitable sources in the communities, and grants may become available from time to time. A recent matching donation of $10,000 from a Brunswick County company was especially welcomed.

Carlo Montagno BC Habitat

Montagano is specific in pointing out that the role he sees in Habitat is more than just counting the number of houses built within a given year. He cites the importance of helping families rather than just putting up numbers of completed homes in a linear graph. With much-needed land donations, he projects building one to five homes per year. Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford reminds his executive directors around the world that running a small nonprofit is a marathon, not a sprint. Therefore, it is critical not to get hung up on the number of homes built. Part of the organization’s mission statement is to bring people together to build not only homes but also communities and hope.

Montagano names three keys to sustaining his successful business — relevance, resilience and growth/stability. It must remain relevant to the needs of the community, where 32 percent of all households are cost-burdened with spending more than 30 percent of their budget on housing.

lso, it must continue to seek help with land donations and volunteer workers in these challenging times. Its growth will be determined in part by the help they attain from donations, volunteers, local business partnerships and sales at ReStores.

On the jobsite with Flowers, Montagano hands Aiyana a souvenir pen with a plastic hammer at one end. She smiles and holds it close, symbolizing how business and construction can help families find safe havens in Brunswick County.

Can you help?
Brunswick County Habitat for Humanity
1323 Stone Chimney Road SW, Supply
(910) 454-0007

To make donations, volunteer or learn about home ownership, visit

Shop or donate items at local ReStores at:
414 Village Road, Leland
4170 Long Beach Road, Southport
6560 Beach Drive, Ocean Isle Beach

Photography by Mark Steelman