For some, it’s the result of a serious illness or near-death experience. For others, it happens after watching a poignant movie or reading an inspirational book. Andrew Gritzmaker’s epiphany came while riding his bike across the United States last July.
“That bike ride changed me. I rode my bike for 32 days from Oregon to Virginia, over 4,200 miles, and during that experience, I had a ton of time to reflect. Prior to the ride, I knew that a significant change in my life was coming, but I didn’t know exactly what. I feel that inclination is what drove me to do something so challenging and what ultimately prepared me for my work at Habitat,” he explains.
Not long after his return from the bike ride, Gritzmaker was selected to become the CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fort Wayne. He had no previous experience building homes, but, as the former executive director of the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House, he knew how to run a nonprofit. His desire to tackle new challenges and his passion for helping others have served him well in his new role.
“Shortly after I started, we completed a new strategic plan. That plan began with defining our core values as an organization. Those values are faithfulness, sustainability, collaboration, transformation and thoughtfulness. It is through those filters that we evaluate every decision we make and every relationship we have. I know that if we humbly and earnestly exemplify those core values as an organization, we’re going to impact our community in previously unimaginable ways,” he says.
Since construction at Fuller’s Landing, a subdivision made up completely of Habitat homes, was well underway, Gritzmaker began to assess alternate building strategies to increase Habitat’s housing production. That search lead to an early conversation with Fort Wayne Metals Owner Scott Glaze. That sparked a housing partnership with Javier Mondragon, who runs Bridge of Grace, a ministry dedicated to empowering individuals and families by giving them the tools they need to be self-sufficient.
“Collaboration has always been a part of Habitat’s DNA. We demonstrate it through our work with partner families, with our volunteers and with our donors. Unfortunately, we have not always been great collaborators with other nonprofits that are dedicated to similar work,” says Gritzmaker. “We have a lofty vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. There is simply no way we can accomplish that vision without a commitment to relentless collaborations with likeminded organizations.”
Sept. 12, on land provided by Bridge of Grace, Habitat volunteers started building their first collaborative house on Pettit Avenue in the Mount Vernon Park Neighborhood. The architecture was completely reworked with the help of MSKTD & Associates to create a desirable home – a stylish 1,100 square foot ranch with three bedrooms and 1 bathroom – that would appraise for the cost to build it.
There are plans to build more homes in the areas of Mount Vernon Park, Oxford and Renaissance Pointe in 2020. The need for affordable housing in Fort Wayne was recently demonstrated by the nearly 500 applications for housing that Habitat for Humanity received on Oct. 7, when it opened its application process for the first time in nearly two years.
Gritzmaker sees future collaborations with other organizations like Vincent Village and CASS Housing to help meet the huge demand. He believes that combining humility, innovation and collaboration with the traditional Habitat approach is essential to grow the organization.
Address: 2020 E. Washington Blvd., Ste. 500 Fort Wayne, Indiana 46803
Phone: (260) 422-4828