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Polk County Enterprise - Local News

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Local Habitat for Humanity founder retires


Enterprise staff

LIVINGSTON -- One of the founding members of Polk County's Habitat for Humanity is retiring from the organization after 16 years of service. During her tenure, Susie Gearing has been a part of constructing 18 homes in Polk County. She and her husband, Ray, have been a large reason for the Habitat's success for 16 years. "I think that I have done all I can do. According to the bylaws — I have. We have term limits in Habitat," Susie said. "My husband and I actually started Polk County's affiliate. I had experienced Habitat in Orange County, California, before I moved here, so I had some exposure there. "We were both fans of Habitat and we thought it was appropriate for Polk County. There was plenty of slum housing that needed to be replaced. Alvin Holly (Polk County Enterprise publisher) was actually one of the first to help us out." The couple were busy putting together the final pieces of the organization at a time when the world was watching events unfold in the northeast. "There was a meeting when we were attending church and looking into the future of what we could be involved in," Susie said. "One of the things that came out of it was Habitat. Both Ray and I had interest in that at the time. That was in the spring of 2001, and Ray said to me privately that before the year was up, he would like to get going with Habitat. "When the summer came, I said the year is going by and you had better fish or cut bait. We called together a committee to suggest where we might go and who would be working with us. On Sept 11, 2001, when everyone was watching television, we were at the Texas Pepper having our initial organization meeting by ourselves." Habitat has procedures for starting new affiliates and the Gearings got in touch with people who have been active with other branches of the organization. For a year-and-a-half, the group was put through a rigorous preparation. "You don't just go out there and say I am going to be a Habitat affiliate," Susie said. "You have to earn your stripes. We finally got accepted on April 1, 2003, and started our first house in December of that year. We finished it in March of 2004 and it was in the City of Livingston. We're really proud of that homeowner, because she has done a great job." Ray also recently retired from Habitat and was also instrumental in fundraising and gaining recognition for the organization. He had the idea for beginning a fundraising walk for several years that generated around $20,000. "If not one, then both have been involved on the board since its founding," Habitat executive director Wanda Tuft said. "They have worked untiringly and dedicated the last 16 years of their lives to Habitat." Each have served as the Livingston Rotary president in the past and have been part of the Dolly Parton reading program for children. There is a project that the Gearings are particularly proud of when thinking of all the time put into Habitat for Humanity. "We did put in a street when the Cochran family donated about 27 acres of land to us in 2005. The street that we put in was Miracle Way and it is the only street that we have built so far. In order to utilize the rest of that land, we will have to build more streets, but you can imagine that it will be expensive." Habitat for Humanity partners with people in the community, and all over the world, to help them build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage.


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