Padnos Sponsors Habitat Home

October 22, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Louis Padnos Iron & Metal Co. is commemorating its 100th anniversary in business by building a Habitat for Humanity home on the city’s southeast side.

Holland-based Padnos Iron & Metal has committed $50,000 to building the “Padnos Centennial House” at 612 Dolbee in Grand Rapids’ Baxter neighborhood.

Some 22 Padnos employees had signed up as volunteers prior to the company’s kickoff luncheon Friday and many more were expected to sign on that day, said co-owner Doug Padnos.

He said the company hopes to put together 12 teams of 10 workers each to tackle the project on a rotating basis. If the company reaches or surpasses that level of employee participation, it would represent more than 25 percent of Padnos’ employment base, he said.

“Habitat believes in the power of the individual and the need for self reliance, just as we do at Padnos,” said Padnos, grandson of Russian immigrant Louis Padnos, who founded the company in 1905 as a scrap peddling business.

“For more than 20 years, Habitat has been helping families build new lives by securing safe, stable housing. We can’t imagine a better way to celebrate our 100th anniversary.”

Today the Padnos family-owned business is a multi-million dollar operation and a successful broker of scrap iron, steel, non-ferrous metals and secondary fibers. The company is considered a scrap processing rather than waste-handling business because most of its materials are recycled back into use.

Padnos said Habitat embraces many of the same principles that his company does — hard work, fair treatment of people and a commitment to recycling valuable resources.

He noted that Padnos has supported Habitat for Humanity for years and that the home-building project is in line with the company’s own value system because it creates opportunities for people.

“You hear the stories of home recipients that have been involved in building the home and they’re all success stories. People can get this opportunity through their own hard work.”

Sandy Weir, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County’s director of development, pointed out that Habitat homes are not given away to people: They are a “hand up” rather than a “hand out.” Habitat homebuyers receive zero-percent interest mortgages payable over 25 years. Mortgage payments are reinvested back into the community in the form of capital to build new houses, she explained.

The homebuyer of the Padnos Centennial House is a single mother with four children ages 10, 12, 14 and 17, Weir noted.

As is required by the organization, the homebuyer will invest between 300 and 500 hours of “sweat equity” in the project and take classes on a variety of subjects, such as budgeting, buying homeowner insurance, maintaining a home and being a good neighbor.

Padnos and Habitat for Humanity volunteers broke ground on the 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom home Saturday morning. It’s scheduled for completion in June 2005. It will be formally dedicated during the Jimmy Carter Work Project week, when the former president visits the state to raise awareness of the need for affordable housing, Weir said.

A typical Habitat home costs the organization about $82,000 to build, and Habitat has to raise $50,000 in sponsorship, which is typically raised through multiple sponsors like foundations, corporations, churches, service clubs and individuals. The fact that the Padnos company opted to be the full sponsor makes it “a wonderful, wonderful” collaboration with Habitat, she commented.

“Padnos employees have made a really good commitment to volunteer labor on Saturdays. They will be coming out and really doing the lion’s share of the work on the home. For them to give both the financial and volunteer support is a very generous gift to us.”

Habitat has built more than 164 homes over the past 20 years, primarily in urban Kent County, according to Executive Director Pam Doty-Nation. 

As Doty-Nation pointed out, children that grow up in a home that their family owns are more likely to become homeowners themselves. Children whose families own rather than rent tend to do better in school, as well, she said.

“The ripple effect of this kind of program is huge. Teen pregnancy rates drop, and adults that own a home tend to go back for more education. Those ripple effects really have an impact on a community.”    

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