May 15, 2009 in Nation/World

Habitat for Humanity receives $100 million gift

Greg Bluestein Associated Press
Associated Press photo

J. Ronald Terwilliger works on a Habitat for Humanity project in Armenia in October 2008.
(Full-size photo)

ATLANTA – The housing market may be sputtering, but Habitat for Humanity International is getting a $100 million gift from an Atlanta businessman who built his fortune developing real estate and is now giving it away piece-by-piece to support affordable housing.

The nonprofit group announced Thursday it received the largest individual contribution in its history, an offering that will help Habitat build 60,000 homes around the globe.

It’s one of the largest gifts in recent years to a group devoted to social services, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Dwight Burlingame, the center’s associate executive director called it “remarkable” – especially in the midst of a gloomy economy.

The donation comes from J. Ronald Terwilliger, of Atlanta, a former chief executive of housing developer Trammell Crow Residential Co. and a longtime member of Habitat’s board of directors.

Terwilliger said that through his work with Habitat and in the private sector he’s witnessed poverty and seen people living in cardboard shacks and filth, as well as the struggle of middle-class families to find affordable housing.

“People need a decent, safe, clean residence where they can get a good night’s sleep and families can be together,” he said. “If they have that as an anchor, they have a way to send their kids off to school regularly and a better chance those children will be healthy.”

The donation comes at a difficult time for the Americus, Ga.-based organization, which like other nonprofit groups has struggled with increasing demand and slowing donations amid the economic downturn.

Habitat will use $30 million to fund an endowment that will make yearly grants to help build more houses. The remaining $70 million will set up a micro-finance fund to help low-income families around the world repair and improve their housing.

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