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Habitat for Humanity director observes 10 years at helm

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
July 21, 2011 at 2:21 a.m.

Cindy Staley, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Victoria, stands in a window frame that will become part of a home built by the organization. Staley, who has held her title in the area for 10 years, said  Habitat for Humanity builds 3-9 houses locally a year for those in need.

Cindy Staley knows exactly why she has been at the helm of Habitat for Humanity Victoria for the past 10 years.

"I've been here because the Lord said this is where I am going to be," said Staley, who became executive director of the nonprofit agency July 11, 2001.

"I'm thankful to be here," said Staley. "It's not about me; it's about our volunteers, donors, staff and families."

Those families now number 74 since Habitat for Humanity built its first Victoria home in 1996.

Staley was writing grants for the Junior League in Corpus Christi when she gravitated toward nonprofit work.

Myra Starkey, Staley's friend of more than 25 years who was active in bringing Habitat for Humanity to Victoria, thought Staley would be the perfect executive director to succeed Dawn Lindsey, Habitat's first executive director.

"Cindy came with a vast knowledge of grant writing and I knew that would be valuable to Habitat," Starkey said. "I knew her work ethic and her ability to lead.

"With her kind and light spirit and being devout in her faith, Cindy was the perfect match for our volunteers and for the community. Praise the Lord we have her."

Staley said she went through a life-changing event - a divorce - moved to Victoria and, after serving as executive director of the Victoria Regional Museum Association for a year, knew Habitat for Humanity was the right fit.

"Some people often don't realize that Habitat is a Christian ministry," she said. "The Lord has always been a huge part of my life. When I was a teenager, I knew I wanted to be involved in the ministry in some way. It has been a joy being here."

Staley said that people of all faiths and walks of live actively take part in Habitat as volunteers, donors and families who receive houses.

Every house requires more than 1,400 volunteer hours. The community provides the bulk of those hours, along with the families, Staley said.

"The theology of the hammer is that when you are on the job site, there are no denominations. You are simply helping your fellow man," said Staley, who has helped on a few builds but is more comfortable on the administrative side of the project.

"They really prefer me to be behind the desk. I am the prime example that anyone can be taught to work on a build," she said. "I can paint or plant sod - nail gun, not so much. I get to facilitate and pray."

Staley praised the community for its support, citing several area businesses, civic organizations and churches that are regular volunteers and donors.

"Some local churches have us in their monthly budgets," she said. "When you have congregations like that behind you, giving and praying, you know the Lord's hand is in it. They have a heart for Habitat."

Habitat for Humanity helps families not only obtain affordable housing but assistance in financial responsibility. Families are required to go through financial counseling and commit to maintaining a monthly budget.

"We make sure families understand on the front end the importance of repaying their mortgage. That money helps us keep building for other families in need," she said.

Habitat for Humanity's scope of helping may soon change.

"We are always trying to broaden our base," Staley said.

Staley said the organization is looking into expanding into Goliad County soon and hopes to later include Jackson and Lavaca counties.

The job certainly has its rewards, Staley said.

"I think the most fulfilling thing is that we realize we are changing the life of a family," she said.

She recalled a build in 2006 after which the father when he got the keys to the new house, thanked Habitat for helping him build a home for his family.

"He said, 'I feel like a real man now,'" Staley recalled.

"That's a reminder that we are not only providing them a place to live and a shelter, we are helping them restore their dignity."



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