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Moreland’s volunteer efforts give Kitsap's Habitat a boost

PORT GAMBLE — When Thomas Moreland first started volunteering with Kitsap County’s Habitat for Humanity, the group averaged building one home a year.

Now, nine years later, the group expects to complete 14 homes throughout the county by the start of 2009. It’s not a feat that can be accomplished without funding.

This week, Moreland flew to Milwaukee to bring home a $10,000 check from Northwestern Mutual Foundation (NMF) — a Fortune 500 company — for his outstanding volunteer efforts.

The check, made out in Moreland’s name, will in turn be presented to Kitsap County’s Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s obviously gratifying to receive this grant,” he said Thursday before boarding a plane to Milwaukee.

This is the second time Moreland, who works for NMF in his Port Gamble office, was recognized as an outstanding volunteer and received the Community Service Award for Habitat.

“I just think that he deserves that recognition for all the things he’s done. He’s just been a tremendous help,” said Lori Oberlander, executive director for Habitat. “He’s so committed to the mission of the organization. Wherever he can serve that’s what he does. I think it’s fabulous that his company can recognize (him) and help Habitat at the same time.”

Moreland previously spent six years on the board of directors for Habitat, two of which he served as president.

Each year NMF gives away 25 grants to nonprofit organizations throughout the country, Moreland said. Twenty four grants are $10,000 and one is $25,000.

“It’s a very competitive process,” he said. “I’m not expecting to win another one.”

The Community Service Award program is open to more than 9,000 NMF representatives like Moreland, who show dedication to their community.

Although the grant comes as needed funding for Habitat, it only makes up for a portion of the building cost for one home.

The material cost alone for a house they are building in Suquamish is projected to be about $60,000.

“[The grant] is a great gift and can really help. It all adds up and really comes together,” Oberlander said. “The core value of our organization is to bring together all these resources — not only monetary but volunteer as well.”

Since Habitat’s inception in the county in 1995, volunteers have built 41 houses for low-income families, Oberlander said.

The only way the organization was able to accomplish that is through dedication, both financially and the labor-intensive sweat hours, Moreland said.

“Over the last years the organization has grown. There’s more donors, more volunteers and more staff,” he said, adding the attraction to the organization is more than just learning about home construction.

“We build houses with volunteers and donated funds for people who don’t have homes and don’t have the means to get into one,” he said. “Ultimately we’re building the community and the houses are just a byproduct.”

Oberlander said Habitat is currently seeking applications for two homes in Suquamish set to be built starting in September. Applications are available on the Web site www.kitsaphabitat.org.

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