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‘Milwaukee’s other mayor’ and Habitat for Humanity help build up Harambee

A house isn’t just a house. The place where you live can leave as lasting an impact as who you live with.

For children and adolescents, living in unsafe or unsanitary homes can be related to greater emotional and behavioral problems. And moving frequently has a detrimental effect on their well-being.

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity knows this as well as anyone, which is one of the reasons behind its important work: helping families build and improve places to call home. 

Beyond that, affordable housing makes a positive impact on the surrounding communities. It delivers economic benefits and encourages diversity by creating an environment where people of different cultural, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds can unite.

Again, a house isn’t just a house. It's a home.

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity recently hosted "Women Build," an empowering experience that invited participants to take proactive steps in serving their communities. At this event and all others, the organization encourages volunteers to sign up for the chance to build and construct a home — no prior experience necessary.

Under the guidance of skilled construction professionals, everyone does their part to improve communities one swing of the hammer at a time.

At "Women Build" in the Harambee neighborhood, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity Donor Relations Manager Kelly Schlicht explained why the organization committed to build 80 new homes over four years in the area: “Right now, the majority of the homes in this community were built in the 1930s. Only about 28% of the homes are owner-occupied.”

To learn more about the need for homes in the neighborhood, I spoke with a Harambee expert: Reuben Harpole. He grew up there and — along with his late wife, Mildred Harpole — has spent more than six decades founding dozens of community centers that serve the community in a variety of ways, from education to community service. Often referred to as “Milwaukee’s other mayor,” he’s driven by the betterment of Milwaukee’s Black community. 

I was fortunate enough to get some time with him for an exclusive interview, which you can listen to below. You’ll also hear conversations with Schlicht — amid a fair amount of construction noise — and volunteer Grace Sherer, who talk about how Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity addresses the need for affordable housing, building up our community and the people in it.

Audio Storyteller / 88Nine On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee