Habitat for Humanity of Western Wayne County was founded by Richard Sheffield. But all he wanted to do was help build homes after he saw Habitat on TV in the 1980's. But without a presence around Michigan, especially Metro Detroit, it was just something one saw on TV. It turned out to be a calling which Rick didn’t realize at the time.
In 1990, Richard moved to Matthews, North Carolina, just outside Charlotte. Habitat was everywhere, in every community. It is so popular there, he wasn’t able to get on a work crew at his church. This initial and other experiences formed the basis for Rick’s eventual starting HFHWWC.
He helped recharter a Kiwanis Chapter in Matthews. Kiwanis is children-focused and their chapter project created a Back-to-School clothing and supplies program for his son’s elementary school. Some families were so in need, the children had to share their clothes which kept them from going to school every day. One of his son’s classmates was one of these “shared-clothes” families. The other families came together and bought them all clothes and supplies. This Kiwanis program and helping families one-on-one had a major impact on Rick’s life.
His Kiwanis chapter also was involved in Habitat. He only helped for one day, which was to fill in a block foundation with sand so the floor could be poured. Though menial and basic, this was almost a prophetic symbol of laying a foundation for the family to build on and thrive in their own home. Working along side these Habitat families as he saw the joy in the faces and actions of these families was never forgotten.
Rick also had a personal experience with a lady holding a “Will work for food” sign. He pulled into the parking lot, gave her all the money he had in his pocket. She was so touched, and told him about a domestics job she had lined up with a prominent family, who Rick new. Rick saw Christ’s face in her eyes and started to cry after he drove off. He never saw her before and never saw her again. He was changed as he immediately thought of Matthews 25:35-40 came to me (“I was hungry and you fed me...”) and became one of his guiding principles.
Back in Michigan after only 2 years in 1992, Rick saw a Habitat bumper sticker with a phone number.
It was for Detroit’s affiliate. They were building on the East Side and weren’t interested in building outside the city as Rick wanted to do. In 1994, after 2 years of intense discussions with the affiliate, Habitat’s Chicago regional office and the help of Dr. Ken Benson, the President and head of Habitat Michigan, Rick appealed directly to Millard Fuller, Habitat’s founder. Millard understood Rick’s true calling and with his intervention and the support of the International board, they cleared the way for HFHWWC to form, under Rick’s guidance.
During these prior two years, and going forward, Ken told Rick to choose the first board members and committee chairs carefully, since they would set the tone and provide the foundation for the affiliate for years to come. Rick first called Bruce Lantto, a longtime friend, and part of St. Robert’s parish in Redford.
The affiliate would not have formed without Faith. Bruce told Rick to call Faith Offman, a pastoral staff member, who gladly agreed to be the first board member.
Faith was there throughout the formation process and helped guide the affiliate for years.
Faith lead Rick to many others she knew who became part of a solid foundation. Fr. James Scheick at St. Edith, jumped in and helped raise funds for the first house, along with other area pastors and their churches. The first house was dedicated to Fr. Jim. Mayor Ed Bivens of Inkster helped Rick and the affiliate secure the land for the first houses. These were the first new homes in Inkster in 42 years.
There are so many people who helped get the affiliate off the ground, taking key leadership positions. Too many to name, but Herb Scott must be named. He came on very early to help Rick, who through his contacts, provided entry into many communities which became communities in which the affiliate built. Herb served in many positions including President, and provided valuable guidance over the years as Habitat for Humanity of Western Wayne County grew and continues to grow.
The history of the founding of the affiliate was far more involved. But, his short narrative gives you some idea of the inspiration, struggles and successes endured to create the affiliate. It continues to evolve and grow as others are called to build on what started as a wish to help build homes for God’s Children In Need.
We proudly honored Mr. Sheffield, as our 2019 Raymond & Theresa Carbott Service Award Recipient!