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Helping Hands

After tool theft, South County Habitat for Humanity is back on track with housing project thanks to overwhelming local support


Late September, a South County Habitat for Humanity (SCHH) volunteer crew arrived on site in Exeter and found that more than $20,000 worth of tools had been stolen. With two families in need of a home, and an unexpected financial burden to grapple with, SCHH wasted no time in launching fundraising efforts – and the community wasted no time in joining.

Within a month, SCHH received an influx of support. Volunteers pulled tools from their cars to continue the project. Neighbors dug out unused drills and hammers from their garages to donate. Retired and active contractors offered their time and skilled labor. People donated cash, and those who couldn’t left calls and messages expressing their appreciation for SCHH and its mission. Even local businesses like Stanley Black & Decker of North Kingstown, Cox Communications, Washington Trust Company, and The Town Dock of Narragansett offered what they could.

“The community as a whole almost immediately rallied behind [us],” says Executive Director Colin Penney. He admits the theft was both a big shock and a big hit to the organization and its current project, which had already been in the works for a few months to provide housing for two Habitat families. “It goes to show how much people believe in the need for affordable housing and our mission.”

The support came not only from Exeter, or even just from South County – Penney says people from all over the state and beyond were reaching out with contributions. “It’s heartwarming,” he shares.

On their website, SCHH posted a message of gratitude: “Support for the replacement of our stolen tools has been overwhelming. We would like to sincerely thank all of the individuals and organizations, both near and afar, that have helped us during this time of need. We continue to build, with the goal that everyone deserves a decent place to call home.”

After all the generosity of donors, the project is back on track – in fact, it didn’t miss a day. Penney happily assures that it will finish on schedule; the houses should be dried in before the first snow, and the families should be able to move in by March or April of next year.