Habitat for Humanity replacement in Muskegon region launched after embezzlement scandal

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – A planned rebranding of the organization formerly known as the Muskegon County Habitat for Humanity has been difficult, following the punching of an unscrupulous former director and the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the new group leader said.

But with the worst of these crises behind them, Solid Rock Housing Support is now looking to complete several housing rehabilitation projects before the end of 2020, new executive director Erik Alm told MLive.

The 34-year-old Habitat local began moving away from the Habitat international umbrella in late December 2018, Alm said, with the aim of renovating existing homes in Muskegon for low and moderate income families. , rather than building new homes.

“Instead of building a whole new home for one family, we could… help multiple families,” Alm said of the group’s reorientation.

But just as the new group launched, director Andrew Paul Mann was kicked out of the organization for alleged theft.

Related: The former director who stole from Habitat calls himself a “sinner” before being sentenced

In November, Mann argued without question to the charges of embezzling over $ 1,000 and less than $ 20,000 from Muskegon Habitat for Humanity. In March, he was sentenced to 31 days in prison. He also paid financial compensation.

As the case against Mann progressed, the Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity section announced it would expand to Norton Shores and Fruitport, according to an MLive interview with that section’s executive director, Beth. Hanis.

In the meantime, Solid Rock has received financial restitution from Mann, along with insurance payouts, Alm said. The group’s finances were “stabilized” before Alm took the lead in November 2019, he said. Now he’s prioritizing building a donor base and fundraising for a new type of housing charity.

When the coronavirus pandemic began to spread in Michigan in mid-March, the organization encountered its second hurdle. It closed its two thrift stores, located at 200 Ottawa Street in Muskegon and 4345 Airline Road in Norton Shores.

These “Solid Rock Dept” stores mainly sell materials removed from buildings that have been demolished. Stores have been closed for about eight weeks throughout the pandemic, Alm said.

The stores are reopening, in line with restrictions on retail establishments, and are popular with people trying to restore some Muskegon charm to their homes, Alm said, as the organization saves things like original light fixtures from historic homes being demolished.

“We get a lot of business trying to find the original crafts from their homes,” Alm said.

Now, with stores open, construction largely on track statewide, and the scandal of recent years that has plagued Habitat’s local name, the Solid Rock board is planning a couple of projects. to tackle before the end of an exceptionally difficult year.

They will review applications submitted online or through their central office, which is also on Ottawa Street. The organization is contracting out the rehabilitation work to local construction professionals, Alm said, as part of a larger commitment to the community they serve.

“We are really trying to rehabilitate homes and lives as part of Muskegon’s rebirth,” Alm said.

Learn more about MLive:

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