DAYTON, OH—At numerous protests, there are signs held high that read “Refugees welcome here.” It’s at once a political statement and a beacon of safety. The arrival of refugees in the U.S. has become a hot-button issue that has reached critical mass. For the staff at the Holiday Inn Dayton Fairborn here, helping refugees is less a political act than a genuine desire to do what feels right. As volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, the hotel’s sales team put in work to help construct a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Fairborn, OH, for a family from Rwanda.
“I remember reading about the genocide in Rwanda, people fleeing here and their struggles. The family we’re building the house for…the father is a veteran. He served in the U.S. Army and drove trucks in Afghanistan. He is a person who escaped hardship in his own country and then served ours; knowing that makes it extra special for us,” said Caitlin Garber, business transient sales manager, Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn. “Habitat for Humanity branched out into Greene County where our hotel is located and Kim Schaaf, Habitat’s donor relations specialist, gave us information about the family. We thought it was a great fit and how wonderful to help out. We were so excited to do the build.”
Garber met Schaaf at a networking event and after touring the local Habitat for Humanity office, she was hooked and wanted to learn more about how she could help.
“We learned about everything they do for the community and it’s more detailed than we thought it was. Habitat is the bank and it’s not just a handout; families get a 0% interest mortgage and the materials for the home-build are donated,” she said. “Families go through educational classes on budgeting, nutrition and home maintenance—even how to mow your lawn. It’s really amazing and they want to set the families up for success.”
As participants in the program, the future homeowners put in their own sweat equity in the building of the house and must stay with the program during the construction and afterward, noted Garber. “We wanted to get involved because it’s not just people getting a house, it’s all the things they put into it and how the families keep in touch,” she said.
Since the hotel’s first engagement with Habitat for Humanity during the summer of 2016, Garber and her team members continue to do additional projects with the organization. They’ve participated in another home-build for a local family; hosted a casual jeans Friday fundraiser where employees pay $5 to wear jeans; raised $200 during breakfast with Santa; and donated 5% of its proceeds from Christmas parties hosted at the hotel.
“We used the money to buy 12 vacuum cleaners and we had a goal of $1,200 because the vacuums typically cost about $100 apiece,” said Garber. “We present them to the family at each house dedication. When they get the keys to the house, they get a new vacuum cleaner. We came up with $4,200 and will be doing a check presentation to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Dayton.”
Garber expressed gratitude for the opportunity she’s been given to help others with the support of the Holiday Inn Dayton Fairborn, which enables employees to take a paid day off to volunteer for a favorite charity.
“Not many companies do that and this company is really about giving back,” she said. “They’re so great and like to make a difference. Other than Habitat for Humanity, we get involved with other things as well like donations for Family Violence Prevention Center of Greene County, charter schools and the Juvenile Diabetes Institute. We’re trying to stay as involved in philanthropy as we can.”