Volunteer Spotlight: Jeanette Thomas

Jeanette Thomas has seen firsthand the incredible need there is for decent, affordable housing in Portland. A financial supporter of Habitat since moving to Portland in 1997, she recently decided to give in a different way: as a volunteer. “I volunteer because I believe that I need to give back to my community and because I hope that my volunteer efforts will be helpful to others. I volunteer for Habitat because I strongly believe in the mission and wanted to become more than just a donor.” After volunteering a few times in the office, she quickly found her groove within our Homeowner Selection Committee.
In 2016, as the city’s rents and home prices saw some of the highest increases in the nation, Habitat received twice the amount of homeowner applications than the previous year. About once a year, Jeanette and the rest of the committee reviews homeowner applications and interviews families who qualify. It’s a thorough process—last year the committee conducted 72 home visits to interview potential partner families. Altogether, the application process and financial and employment verification can take just over three months. Jeanette describes it as “an incredibly rewarding experience I went on five home visits and three of the families that I visited received Habitat homes.  It is very rewarding to know that those families will be in safe, affordable housing in the near future.”
Jeanette’s experience growing up in the small, rural community of Mill City, Oregon—where finding decent and affordable housing was a challenge—helped shape her view on the necessity of stable housing. After a career as a corporate bankruptcy attorney with the firm Perkins Coie LLP, she has been dedicating her time not only to Habitat, but also as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and as a volunteer at her children’s school. She hopes to model the importance of volunteering to her young children, and “looks forward to a day when they are old enough to participate in a Habitat build day.”
Shelby Pierce, Habitat’s Homeownership Program Coordinator, adds on behalf of the Homeownership Department, “We have been very fortunate to have Jeanette as part of the team. Her experience as an attorney and a CASA volunteer gives her a unique blend of skills that pairs well with volunteering in our Homeownership Department. Jeanette has helped us with homeownership application intake and processing, data entry, and home visit interviews among other things. We look forward to her continued involvement. Thanks Jeanette!”

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