Theft is reprehensible in any context, but it’s particularly deplorable when a nonprofit organization championing affordable and safe housing is the victim. That’s why what happened to Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County was extra sinister.

On January 30, 2023, the hearts of the volunteers at a project site in Domenica Park — a housing development in Waukesha, Wisconsin — sank after discovering two trailers’ worth of construction tools were missing. The incident threatened to halt the construction of homes meant for 20 families.

The county has about 150 unsheltered homeless individuals and is no stranger to frigid nights. This setback was a rude awakening for stakeholders who believed nonprofits building roofs above the heads of society’s most underprivileged and vulnerable members — like Habitat for Humanity — would be immune to such property crime.

A Blessing in Disguise

At first, Habitat leaders thought the value of the stolen goods was $10,000. However, a later audit corrected the figure and found the organization lost three times more than the initial estimate. Despite losing over $30,000 worth of equipment, the public charity was optimistic about overcoming the adversity.

Habitat for Humanity lives off donations, so it reached out to the community for support. It also shared a list of missing tools on its website — complete with product information, like brand name, description and serial number, to help donors find exactly what was needed.

The organization hoped it could raise sufficient funds and source key tools — such as impact drills, cordless drills, jigsaws, reciprocating saws and circular saws — sooner rather than later to resume construction and prevent longer project completion delays.

The public responded positively to the plea.

The charity’s coffers swell by about $10,000 within 24 hours after speaking about the theft. The following day, the Waukesha Habitat office was busy answering concerned citizens’ inquiries and receiving preowned tools from generous souls who wanted to feel good about helping out. A week later, the monetary donations amounted to more than $75,000.

The immense generosity of community members touched Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County. The organization kept the public updated on the donations and pledges it received online and acknowledged the people and businesses that extended support in its hour of need, including:

  • Petcoff Family Foundation
  • Metropolitan Builders Association
  • Zeman Tool and Manufacturing
  • Bank Five Nine

The organization ended January with disheartening news but joy replaced sorrow in no time, thanks to Waukesha’s altruistic community. The turn of events further hardened Habitat’s resolve to pursue its advocacy.

An Unwavering Mission

Habitat for Humanity has been building affordable and safe homes for historically underserved and low-income households for about five decades. It works with volunteers, partners, families and communities across more than 70 countries, having helped more than 59 million people.

The organization’s programs vary by location to effectively address the unique needs of a country’s demographics.

For instance, it has an Aging in Place program in the United States. Habitat knows about 77% of adults 50 and older wish to receive long-term care in their own homes. The nonprofit also understands remaining home promotes quality of life and longevity. Its improved Housing Plus model aims to help senior American homeowners get their properties repaired and modified based on their specific shelter needs.

Another example is the Puerto Rico Recovery Program. In 2017, hurricanes Maria and Irma hit the island and caused billions of dollars worth of damage in their wake, leaving hundreds of thousands of families with damaged houses.

Habitat Puerto Rico has used its expertise and resources to go beyond home construction and repairs. The organization’s affiliate on the island has extended assistance to help residents secure legal property titles, offer skills development to locals, and facilitate knowledge exchange between stakeholders and the government for better policymaking. 

Habitat for Humanity — Building Lives With Affordable Housing

The ordeal Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County went through wasn’t the first, and it may not be the last. As unfortunate as it was, it’s a story of triumph. It’s a reminder that the impact of criminality is weaker when the sense of community is stronger.

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About Author

Mia Barnes is a lifestyle and wellness writer and the Editor in Chief at When Mia isn't writing, she can usually be found reading, jogging or volunteering at one of her local animal shelters.

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