Our Story: Part I


The words home and family are synonymous with Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver (HFHGV); both important and invaluable to the growth of our community, our people and our organization.  

In celebration of Family Day and the growth of HFHGV, we're sharing the story of our humbled beginnings.  The determination and passion of one has blossomed into a family of over 400 volunteers, staff and Habitat families.   Hundreds more have shown their support by hosting fundraisers, working on our build sites, donating materials and visiting our ReStores, all with the common goal to help build safe and decent homes.      

Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver was founded in 1995, but it wasn’t until 1997 when Gloria Levi, a Gerontologist, immersed herself in the organization that the reality of building affordable Habitat homes for low-income, hard-working families was put into motion.

In May of 1997 Gloria lost her daughter-in-law to breast cancer.  Grief stricken for months, Gloria eventually heard about a Habitat for Humanity Blitz build in Newfoundland.  Needing something to distract and re-energize, she set out to learn more.  The build was already full, but Gloria called Habitat for Humanity Canada and they managed to include her amongst their 300 volunteers for the July build.

Volunteers came from around the world including Mexico, Texas and Jamaica, all at their own expense.  Gloria met others with similar stories; one woman recently lost her daughter and her church helped raise the funds to cover her expenses.  Another woman, recently divorced, needed to reconnect with others.  A common thread of the volunteers was to find a sense of purpose through helping others.

On site Gloria managed the dining room facilities, ensuring the space was set up and equipped for the volunteer’s meal breaks.  The team worked very long days, from early morning to late evening.  The objective was to complete seven homes in five days.  A tall order, but Gloria’s memories brought a smile to her face as she reflected, “On day three the electrical was put in and all seven homes had light. It was an exciting moment when they were all lite up.  Everyone was so determined. People were so happy - negativity could not interfere with our success.  The build really brought out the best in all of us.”

With a new sense of purpose, Gloria returned to Vancouver and joined Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver with the promise to do what the organization hadn’t been able to do yet, get land to build.  “I came back inspired to be involved. Habitat has a niche approach.  It’s not a vehicle for welfare, it’s for the working poor, people working for a living in need of a ‘hand up.’”

To be continued... here.

Miranda Thorne