BE THE CHANGE: Daryl Yankee catches us up on Habitat for HumanityHabitat for Humanity in Duluth has grown. And, with the help of executive director Daryl Yankee, the organization has high hopes of expanding and changing even more to better serve the Northland and surrounding communities.
By: Sarah Packingham, Budgeteer News
Habitat for Humanity in Duluth has grown. And, with the help of executive director Daryl Yankee, the organization has high hopes of expanding and changing even more to better serve the Northland and surrounding communities.
Last spring, the Duluth branch joined up with its affiliate in Carlton County to become Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity. The organization is also now expanding to serve families in need in Superior.
Yankee has been with the organization since 2009.
Prior to his time with Habitat in Duluth, he worked with Habitat organizations in the Twin Cities and in Ventura County, Calif.
In 2006, Yankee returned to Minnesota to be closer to his wife’s parents.
“Fortunately Animal Allies Humane Society was searching for an executive director to help revive their program and build a shelter,” Yankee said of what turned out to be his first job in Duluth. “It was a great experience working with the board, staff and volunteers.”
Yankee left his position at Animal Allies when his wife was diagnosed with cancer and they moved to the Twin Cities to treat her illness.
“In 2009 when the local affiliate (of Habitat) was seeking a new director, we jumped at the chance to return to Duluth and Habitat for Humanity,” Yankee said.
When people think of Habitat for Humanity, they generally think of an organization that builds homes for deserving families, but that is only part of what they do.
Yankee said the organization is also working on two different services called “A Brush with Kindness” and “ReStore.”
“A Brush with Kindness primarily focuses on accessibility (handicap ramps and porch and entry repair), weatherization and code violations like painting, clean-up and landscape,” he said. “We are also moving forward with a plan to open a ReStore in the Twin Ports that will accept donated building materials and offer them for sale at a significant discount.”
When Habitat does build a home for a family, there are specific requirements that have to be met.
A family is chosen based on its ability to make the payments on a no-interest loan covering the cost of construction. The family must also be willing to participate in the construction process.
The program also allows only families with household incomes less than 60 percent of the area’s median income, Yankee said.
A Brush with Kindness projects are for homeowners with incomes at below 50 percent of the median income. The property must also show a crucial need for any exterior repairs.
Yankee said the most rewarding aspect of his job is connecting people who want to help those in need.
“Our impact goes beyond construction and allows plenty of room for compassion and understanding between folks of very different backgrounds,” he said.
The greatest challenge for Habitat in Duluth is funding.
“We do not accept government money to fund our programs,” Yankee said. “Instead [we] rely on the community to support our work. The Twin Ports is full of caring people who would love to put that into action, but we need the money to purchase the tools and materials to make that possible.”
Yankee said working in Duluth has been somewhat similar to his time in California, as the areas are similar in population.
“Both communities are concerned with uncontrolled growing and dealing with an aging housing stock,” he said. “The biggest difference is the significantly shortened outdoor construction season which affects our ability to make exterior repairs year-round.”
Habitat is a small organization, as there are actually only three staff members — and only one of the staff members is full-time.
“We are always looking for people who have experience in finance, design, construction, law, fundraising and social work to serve on our board and task forces,” Yankee said.
In the past year, Habitat’s reach has grown drastically.
“The bottom line for any nonprofit is results,” Yankee said. “With the rollout of A Brush with Kindness … we have gone from serving two families in 2009 to a dozen in 2010.”
It is Yankee’s hope that, with the help of the rest of the organization, Habitat can continue to thrive and help various Northland families.
“The ability of Habitat for Humanity to make safe, decent, affordable housing is a matter of conscience and action in [our group],” Yankee said. “It depends on our ability to engage many folks of varying skills in our work. In the past, local efforts have focused on the vision of the director alone. This isn’t about what I can do, but what we can do together.”
Find more information at the website www.twinportshabitat.org.
Nominate the next ‘Be the Change’ honoree
Mahatma Gandhi was known for saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
He was known for helping India gain its independence and also for inspiring movements seeking civil rights and freedom across the world.
Gandhi had a vision of a better place, and there are people in the Duluth community who have ideals similar to his.
In this series, the Budgeteer will profile people who are passionate about making the world a better place. It doesn’t matter if it’s how they do their jobs or how they raise their kids — we just want to know about people you know who are making a difference.
If there is anyone you know who impacts Duluth or the surrounding communities, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Be the Change” in the subject field, to nominate them to be featured in this series.
With your nomination, please include a brief description of what you feel they are doing to impact the Northland.
Frequent Budgeteer contributor Sarah Packingham can be reached via email@example.com.