By Joel Hall
Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity -- which builds houses for working families in need in Clayton, Henry, and Fayette counties -- created a new position last week, one that may greatly increase the organization's ability to leverage funds.
Cara Welch, a Habitat for Humanity board member and a former environmental lawyer, has been appointed as the organization's Chief Development Officer (CDO). Brenda Rayburn will remain in her position as executive director, but Welch will take on the full-time duties of securing funding and publicity.
Welch, a resident of Locust Grove, said the division of labor will enhance the organization's ability to find donors and open the door for new fund-raising opportunities.
"Brenda is phenomenal ... we couldn't ask for a better executive director," said Welch. With the organization's growth however, Welch said it was becoming difficult for one person to handle all of the internal workings of the organization, as well as fund-raising and publicity.
"Basically, all external relations are mine and all interior relations are hers," said Welch. She said the organization is now free to take on new projects, such as its first charity golf tournament, tentatively scheduled to take place at Eagle's Brooke Country Club in Locust Grove in May.
Rayburn predicted the bringing of Welch into the organization will increase the ability to secure land to build houses by 50 percent. "We're at a point now, that in order to continue to serve the Southern Crescent, we have to have more money," said Rayburn. "We just don't have the land or the money to buy the land. People will give their time, but if you don't have the land to build, it does no good.
"Her position will make it clear to the public about what we are doing," Rayburn continued. "It is really going to accelerate our ability to serve families. She is going to position us more effectively in the community."
Rayburn said with the increased funding expected to arise from the new CDO position, Southern Crescent Habitat would be able to step up its housing production from 8 to 10 houses a year, to 12 to 15 houses a year.
Welch received Masters and Juris Doctor degrees in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School, where she directed the law school chapter of Habitat for Humanity and served on the board of the Upper Valley (Vermont and New Hampshire) Habitat for Humanity. She also completed a fellowship at Cornell University's Graduate School of City and Regional Planning, and served as law clerk for Chief Judge Stephen E. Boswell of Clayton County Superior Court.
"I have a strong advocacy background and don't mind asking people for money, if its for a good cause," said Welch. "These people are doing their best to change their situation, and I don't mind helping them out. It's not a hand out ... we are giving people an opportunity to better themselves, and I don't think there is any better way to do that than that way."
Potential recipients of Habitat for Humanity homes must go through a rigorous selection process. Applicants must be working individuals who make 30 to 60 percent of their county's median income. For more information, go to www.schfh.org.