Saturday, February 27th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


Veteran and civilian families wanted for new homes in Chesapeake

by Sean Fitzpatrick

Executive Director Frank Hruska wants to help families find their home

Executive Director Frank Hruska wants to help families find their home

Affordable housing is a challenge no matter where one goes. This is especially true for those who may be in need. Fortunately, Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to helping their community. One doesn't have to look very far for evidence of Habitat for Humanity's good will, either, as Frank Hruska, the new executive director, radiates positivity.

"It's all about giving everyone a decent place to live," Frank smiles, his charisma shining through. "Everyone deserves that!"

Born and raised in Long Island, New York, the retired Navy captain brings new energy to the company. Starting as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Frank eventually joined the board of directors and, as of March, has taken the mantle of executive director. When asked what Frank enjoys doing in his free time, it becomes all the clearer that he has an intense passion for his work. "It's mostly home projects," Frank replies. "I love building things around the house, the yard; everything like that."

Frank now leads the charge in a mission that has always been about community wellness. For 30 years, Habitat for Humanity has provided Hampton Roads with affordable housing and is always willing to go the extra mile. If a prospective homeowner qualifies as low-income, under HUD (Housing and Urban Development, a federal agency), up to 85 percent of a newly built home's construction will be carried out by volunteers. Incredibly, monthly financing only requires 30 percent of the home owner's monthly pay.

What happens next is something Frank calls "sweat equity."

"We give hand-ups, not hand-outs," Frank says. "The family helps build the house. That's part of why we are able to do what we do. If the family is unable to help build the house, they can help around our offices or in our ReStore."

The ReStore, an all-purpose home-improvement outlet for furniture and hardware, is brimming with a wide array of items for the home and yard. Reese Heable is the director of the ReStore and has been with the company for four years, helping the process of growth along the way.

"Our two ReStores are owned by us and operated by us," Reese says. "We're especially proud of the kinds of things that are donated here -  from garden hoses to couches, ornate floor tiles to paintings. The variety keeps people coming back. I see it as a kind of treasure hunt. One never really knows what they'll find."

Recently, the ReStore acquired an antique, coin operated jukebox. "Things like this are gone in a flash," Reese grins.

What's equally important about the ReStore lies in its DNA as a fundraiser. All profits from items sold are funneled back into housing, while also providing home owners with affordable products. Most of the products sold are donated by individuals interested in helping those in need or in reducing waste.

"The ReStore has benefits for everyone involved and helps builds houses; and sometimes people are really in need of something in the house," Frank chimes in.

"Once, a family came in looking for a stove," Reese recalls. "They were struggling to afford a new one, but we were able to help them out with a stove that someone had just dropped off. If anyone would like to donate, items can be dropped off at one of our ReStore locations in Virginia Beach or Norfolk, and if you can't come to us, we will come to you."

"We give hand-ups, not hand-outs.
The family helps build the house.
That's part of why we are able
to do what we do."

- Frank Hruska, Executive Director

Furnishing homes is part of Habitat's mission and it wouldn't be possible without the community's help. This is also true for the home building process. "Building a new house is like a Rubix cube," Frank says, forming the shape of a cube with his hands. "What does a family need? Do we have enough volunteers to help out? Making everything come together can be a challenge."

Habitat for Humanity's charitable, flexible plan has also proved effective. Over the course of the last three decades, 224 homes have been built and lived in by families across south Hampton Roads. "And we're not slowing down anytime soon," Frank assures. "Just last week, we matched a family with a home, and we're doing it again next week."

That's not all, either. Soon, Habitat's program for veterans, Habitat for Heroes, will build a home that is funded by the First Settlers Region Porsche Club of America, Bank of America and the City of Chesapeake. "It's especially made for a veteran family, and we are seeking a qualified veteran to apply for this opportunity to become a homeowner," Frank explains. "We're starting in the beginning of October, so it's right around the bend. If a veteran would like to see if they qualify, they can check out our website,"

Changing times have necessitated reorganizing staff, but it is all for the better of their humanitarian philosophy, and Frank is clear about this. "This is what really matters," Frank affirms. "Our staff may have changed, but our mission has not. We are still committed to building houses for families  and that's why we are always looking for more volunteers and donations. We are moving forward, but not leaving anyone in need behind."

Volunteers and donations are more important than ever before. With housing becoming more and more expensive, donations to Habitat for Humanity, whether to the ReStore or to their construction projects, will provide many with better living situations.

"Building homes in low-income areas increases property values, too, so it helps everyone in the area. It all comes back to bringing the community a better standard of living," Frank smiles.

 The Shopper is honored to bring you this story about Habitat for Humanity's excellent mission.

It brings to mind our beloved friend John Thompson, who passed just before his 94th birthday. John and his wife, Elaine, owned Jande Construction for many years. John was so committed to the families he built homes for that he was often known to simply add a back porch or extra closets, etc. when he knew they desired an add-on that was not in their budget. Habitat for Humanity was one of John Thompson's favorite charities. His constant acts of kindness and generosity reflect the spirit of this fine philanthropic organization.

Habitat for Humanity