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Monthly Musing

Monthly Musing

April 2024

Habitat MidOhio Monthly Musing

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CEO Corner

It was nearly 20 years ago when I first visited the “Greater Columbus Habitat for Humanity” offices upon being named as the affiliate’s new Pres. & CEO.  The entire operation that included administration, finance, construction, volunteers, family services, and Habitat’s single ReStore was housed in a single building on Westerville Road, serving a single Franklin County. 

Our relatively small team then, almost all of whom are still with me, set aside 2005 to reset and revitalize the entire operation, top to bottom.  It was challenging work, but with stout-hearted folks who were dedicated to the mission of Habitat and serving families, we persevered, recovered and began the process of building for what we all envisioned would be a bright future for the affiliate.  And how did that future unfold exactly?

I’m glad you asked that question!

While each team member worked and contributed to a rolling three-year strategic plan, their efforts at execution allowed me to stand on their shoulders and reach out with our banner to the community – locally, nationally and into parts of Africa and South America.  Elected to Habitat International’s U.S. Council, 19 others and I were able to help fashion policy implemented by all 1,200 affiliates across the country.  Here in Ohio, I chaired Habitat Ohio, whose work has been since its inception to assist the 39 Ohio affiliates.  As a well-oiled machine, we as an affiliate were just getting started.

In 2012, we brought the Licking County Habitat operation under our wing, and shortly thereafter changed our name to Habitat MidOhio reflecting our greater geographical reach that now also includes Madison County. 

Never content with sitting still, and with a desire to serve more families, board and staff worked together to fashion an ever more ambitious “StratPlan” designed to increase our capacity.  As in any such plan, revenue is of paramount importance, for, as the saying goes, “No margin, no mission.”  Of great importance was the need to ramp up our Resource Development Department and ReStore efforts.  Regarding the latter, the question became, “Should we open more stores?”  The short answer was, as you are well aware, “yes.” 

The long answer to make that dream a reality involved many moving parts with our two successful capital campaigns.  Companies, individuals, faith partners and various foundations answered the call resulting in our exceeding our stated goals.  The result of both was the purchase of all three ReStore buildings – one with a commercial strip center where we lease to three other businesses - plus the purchase move of our headquarters that allowed us to relocate from cramped offices at Westerville Road to Busch Boulevard.  So, what started out in 2004 as a single retail location generating $18k per month is now an operation that in each of the last two months generated more than $400k! 

The revenue produced has allowed us to make good on what was our up-front goal – that of serving more families.  From numbers in the mid-teens years ago, and with the addition of our Critical Repair Program, the affiliate served 108 families in FY23 and we’re on target to reach 125 by the end of FY24 that closes out on June 30th. 

To further aid our ongoing efforts is the creation of the Habitat Capital Resource Corporation (HCRC).  This entity, once certified by U.S. Treasury’s Community Development Finance Institution Office, will allow us to attract resources from local banks that will jumpstart new programs and enhance existing ones. 

As a former Ohio lawmaker, I’ve always felt that advocacy is important for organizations like ours.  While on U.S. Council, it was my pleasure to chair the first formal Advocacy Committee for HFHI.  During my tenure, HFHI spooled up the Government Relations & Advocacy office in Washington, thereby giving us an opportunity to have a national voice.  We followed that initiative with the scheduling of an annual “Habitat on the Hill” advocacy conference and brought in affiliate representatives from across the nation to speak with members of Congress about the important issue of affordable housing and what they could do to support our efforts back home.

Here locally, I felt we lacked a coordinated advocacy effort among housing providers and, as a result, we lacked collective traction in trying to address a housing issue that was quickly escalating from challenge to crisis.  So, with 11 other providers and developers, I founded the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio in 2016 and chaired the entity for its first five years.  By being able to distill the interests of our diverse now 30+ members, both for profit and nonprofit, and then speak with one voice, the Alliance has been at the forefront stating our case to policy makers and elected officials at all levels.  As a result, this organization has been an integral part of the effort to garner a total of more than $700M in funding from all sources, focused on affordable housing issues. 

The bottom line is that advocacy works!...and it gets noticed in ways not anticipated.  For example, in 2022, I received a cryptic call from someone representing a “client” who wanted to donate a significant amount to Habitat MidOhio.  Cited was that our affiliate’s additional efforts in creating the Alliance to engage the entire housing provider community on the issues in a coordinated way was pivotal in our being selected to receive a one-time gift of $6.75M to be used at our discretion.  Totally unexpected, I believe this demonstrates Providence at work in our lives.       

Our latest “win” is credited to the great work of Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, who advanced a project on our behalf for $1M to be used in the construction/renovation of a Habitat MidOhio Construction Operations Center.  It’s no secret that FY24 budget negotiations were challenging to say the least, but she advocated on our behalf with other members of Congress, through House deliberations and floor votes, and was aided by U.S. Senator Brown in the upper chamber’s appropriation’s process.  Many thanks to both Congresswoman Beatty and Senator Brown for their yeoman efforts!

That brings us to today and what is my final written contribution to Musings.  You may have seen the article in Columbus Business First, however, if not, I want to introduce you to my successor as Pres. & CEO.   Brandi Braun AL-Issa will be taking the reins as of May 14th, and I'll be assisting her during the transition into the new role.  To be clear, my last day with the affiliate will be Friday, May 31st.  

From the bottom of my heart, I want you to know how much I have enjoyed working with each and every one of you as friends, donors, volunteers, and ReStore patrons over these past nearly 20 years.  As some of you have heard me say, I consider everyone who comprises this valuable team my second family.  Since I started in 2004, together we've tackled and met every single challenge tossed at us.  Know I am most grateful for the strong professional and personal bonds that we forged in dealing with various crises while striving to meet our annual stretch goals.  

To those who have followed us and contributed in some important way, this affiliate has grown by leaps and bounds over these last two decades and been elevated into the top tier of Habitat affiliates across the country.  You have provided a firm foundation for that growth. 

I know you'll give Brandi the same loyalty that you have afforded me during our time together in service to so many Habitat homeowners.  Do join me in offering a warm welcome to Brandi as she joins our Habitat MidOhio family.

Know I’m forever thankful, and grateful, for having had this wonderful opportunity to serve the Habitat community and our thriving partner families.

Bless you one and all,

E.J. Thomas
President & CEO


Homeowner Services

Dedication of Habte Family Home, March 9

We had a wonderful time celebrating the Habte family as they received the keys to their new home! Thank you to Hilliard Adopt-a-House for sponsoring the rehab of this 100 year old home – it is beautiful! It was a morning of celebration and good food!


Wall Raising of Spikes Family Home, March 9

Rain and clouds did not stop us from celebrating the commencement of one of our latest new builds in Linden. We are so excited to partner with the Spikes family and grateful for our faithful long-time partners, Church of the Resurrection and City of Columbus, for sponsoring this build.

Dedication of Travis Family Home, March 16

It was a full house as we held a Commencement Ceremony for the Travis family! They were surrounded by family, friends, and a volunteer crew of our Habitat AmeriCorps Alumni as she helped to install one of the last walls of her house. Many thanks to The Brighter Days Foundation for providing funding for this project, and to the many volunteers who will help build it!

Dedication of Bell Family Home, March 23

Congratulations Bell family on receiving the keys to your new home this past month! It was a full house with lots of smiles and a few (happy) tears. So thankful for the community of faith that came together to make the Bell Family’s dream a reality. Thank you Northside Partnership for sponsoring your 32nd home and the City of Columbus for your continued support!

Dedication of Jones Family Home, March 28

We ended March dedicating a new home for the Jones family! Special thanks to long-time sponsors American Electric Power and City of Columbus who helped make this home a reality for the new Habitat MidOhio family!



Repair Program keeps more families in safe housing than ever before

The importance keeping families in safe living environments is paramount to the Habitat MidOhio Repair Program.  Many families have concerns with things as basic as safe means of entry into their homes.  The ability to come and go for shopping, doctors appointments and errands is often taken for granted.  Oftentimes, families we partner with for repairs like the ones pictured below have been in their homes for many years but as they age and have more limitations to their mobility, things like stairs, porches and sidewalks in disrepair can quickly become big obstacles.  Several families have followed up with us expressing how grateful they are for Habitat being able to make the necessary modifications to their home to help coming and going, feasible and safe for them.

Being able to prepare meals in our home kitchens is another example of something that many of us take for granted.  As homes age, oftentimes issues occur in the kitchen that make it no longer serviceable.  For limited-income families, expensive repairs are out of reach.  After a recent kitchen repair project, the owner, Langston, was ecstatic with the results and subsequently communicated to us how appreciative for our help in his kitchen renovation.  We are happy that he can now prepare meals and break bread with his family in his home again!  

With over two months remaining in the fiscal year, we have exceeded the number of families that we have served with vital repair projects in any other year.  This is thanks to the generous support of our donors and the hard work of our volunteers, AmeriCorps and repair staff!  To date, we have completed 88 repair projects, which is already at the total number of repair projects completed last fiscal year.  With the help of many of you we will continue to forge forward to completing our fiscal year goal of serving 110 families with repairs in central Ohio.   Thank you for your support in making the lives of so many better!  



Shop: Our inventory is always changing and now is the time to upgrade and refresh your home as we head into the warmer months! Check out all of our new and donated items, featuring La-Z-boy furniture, Dahdoul flooring and home décor, Butcher Block countertops and many other great items donated generously by individuals and corporations! Shop all of our locations or online.

ReStore Locations and Hours

ReStore Westerville Road: 3140 Westerville Road, Columbus, OH 43224
ReStore Bethel Road: 2555 Bethel Road, Columbus, OH 43220
ReStore Newark: 1660 N 21st St, Newark OH 43055

Open Monday-Saturday from 9:00AM to 5:00 P.M.  (Donations Drop-offs 9:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.)

Donate: Spring is a time to start fresh! Out with the old and in with the new! We would love to be a part of your spring-cleaning process. Items donated to Habitat MidOhio go to our ReStores to be sold at an affordable price to the community which in turn helps support us on our mission to create affordable housing in central Ohio. Do you have bigger items that won’t fit into your vehicle? No problem, we will come to you and pick up for free!

Check out more information on what items we accept and how to set up a pick up here!

Did you Know: Habitat for Humanity-Mid Ohio offers deconstruction services for your home!

The Habitat ReStore Deconstruction Team provides removal of salvageable materials from your home or business. As a locally recognized and respected organization, we offer efficient service and experienced personnel to complete your job on time. 

How the Deconstruction Process Works 

  1. Contact us to schedule a walkthrough of your project at or 614-419-4389
  2. Our experienced crew removes salvageable materials from your property 
  3. Materials go to the Habitat ReStore to help raise funds to build affordable housing 
  4. You receive a donation receipt for tax purposes 

Volunteer Services

Happy National Volunteer Week!

Volunteers are essential to achieving our mission of inspiring hope, building homes, empowering families, and developing communities in Central Ohio!  We invite you to click below to view the full FY23 Volunteer Impact Report. 

We will be starting construction on our Veterans Build soon and are excited to get to work to build a house for a local Veteran and his family! We are looking for volunteer groups to assist with construction. Please click here to express interest in volunteering!


Join our Habitat Young Professionals chapter for another installment of Leader Lessons, featuring Joe Berardi of Berardi Partners, on Thursday, May 2nd at 5:30pm.


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

National Fair Housing Month in April increases efforts to end housing discrimination and raises awareness of fair housing rights. The Fair Housing Act also celebrates its anniversary in April and in 2018, the Act celebrated its 50th anniversary. The Fair Housing Act was designed to protect Americans from discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on color, race, national origin, and religion, the act later extended to sex, disability, and family status. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the campaign includes efforts to end housing discrimination and raise awareness of fair housing rights in communities across the country.

National Fair Housing Month

Habitat MidOhio is actively involved in working to advocate for and help implement policies related to fair housing. One example is our work with CONVERGENCE Columbus which began three years ago and is the effort in central Ohio to help Black and minority households ready themselves for homeownership by providing both accessible and actionable tools for the process.  Additionally, we are members of HFHI’s Advancing Black Homeownership Initiative whose goal is to dismantle the systemic bias that has prevented generations of Black families from accessing the wealth-building potential of homeownership. Efforts include advocating for equitable policies, customizing loan products and providing financial education to help to close the stark homeownership gap for Black families.

HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalFairHousingMonth

  • Support an end to housing discrimination.
  • Learn about the types of housing support by the Fair Housing Act.
  • Join an event hosted near you or online.
  • File a complaint if you experience housing discrimination.
  • Learn more by visiting
  • Use #NationalFairHousingMonth to share on social media.


Resource Development

Did you know by donating your vehicle to Habitat you can help build and repair affordable homes while also helping the environment? Facilitated by Habitat for Humanity International, sales revenue for cars donated in our three-county service area (Franklin, Licking and Madison) is passed on to our affiliate to support affordable housing in our community! In 2023, 70 local individuals donated cars through the program, helping raise just over $38,500! Thank you for donating in this unique way.

Meet the Team

Join us in welcoming Shelli to HFHMO as our new Senior Accountant in the Finance Department.

Shelli applied to work with Habitat because she feels that Habitat is an awesome foundation for helping people.  She likes to volunteer and make a difference, so working at Habitat just made sense to her.  She is excited to learn more about the non-profit world and meet her new co-workers.  She looks forward to helping Julie make our Finance Department run as smoothly as possible.  Outside of work Shelli enjoys spending time with her family, beach vacations, football, and bike riding.  Shelli volunteers time with Freedom Ala Cart doing neighborhood trash pickup.  She also has an 8 ½ year old English Bulldog.  Fun fact: She loves Mexican food!

Please join us in welcoming Jacob to the Habitat MidOhio team! 

Jacob joins our affiliate as a Team Member in the Westerville Road ReStore. He wanted to work for Habitat because he likes the idea that he could help people in meaningful ways.  He is excited for the satisfaction of a job well done.  His goal is to be a positive influence to those around him.  Outside of work Jacob enjoys cooking, tv/movies, music, and sports.  He is also very active in his church.  Fun fact: He once ran into Patrick Dempsey at his high school who was there to play “wingman” for the gym teacher. 



Please welcome (back) our newest AmeriCorps member, Lisa! 

Lisa is no stranger to Habitat MidOhio as she served an AmeriCorps service year with her husband, David, 11 years ago where she served as an AmeriCorps Community Outreach Coordinator for a year and then came on staff for several years on the Homeowner Services team. This time around, she will serve as the Resource Development AmeriCorps VISTA member. Lisa chose to come back and serve another year with Habitat because she loves Habitat and is passionate about the importance of safe housing (and the education award is a plus!). A few of Lisa’s interests include: writing, housing restoration with her husband, David, painting, and sewing. Lisa’s favorite holiday activities would be making cookies and decorating them with her kids and grandkids as well as eating holiday meals with family. Her favorite dessert is crème brûlée. Lisa would describe herself  as creative, empathetic, determined, and optimistic. One important life skill she thinks everyone should have would be communication and mediation skills. Two role models include: Loretta who introduced her to the nonprofit world, and her Aunt Naomi who taught her about faith in God. One goal she would like to accomplish in her lifetime would be a mission trip to Israel working on a dig site for archaeological finds. A fun fact about Lisa is that she jumped out of an airplane!

Please join us in welcoming Autumn to our affiliate as a Team Member in the Newark ReStore.

Autumn loves to shop at the Newark ReStore.  She always felt that it was a friendly environment and decided to apply for an opening.  She is most excited to build new connections with the people around her.  Her goal is to do her best while making work fun and enjoyable.  Outside of work Autumn likes to pick up trash around her community and run different events.  Fun fact: She is a middle child out of seven children!

We are excited to welcome Jim, another new Team Member in the Newark ReStore!

Jim wanted to work for Habitat because he thought it would be a good fit for him.  He is excited to meet new people.  His goal is to work hard and drive more sales.  Outside of he is involved with the Crossroads Crusaders, which is a Christian mobile outreach.  Jim says:  Be sure to smile, be happy, and let God guide you.

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