When we look back over the last 17 years, we’re amazed at how much Habitat for Humanity of Orange County has grown and accomplished. Yet while much has changed over these 17 years, one constant has remained – the steadfast leadership of Sharon Ellis, our incredible President and CEO.
Read on to learn more about Sharon’s impact in Orange County and beyond:
Building A Strong Team
Sharon initially joined Habitat OC in 2005 with a staff of 8. Over the years, she has built a strong and capable team that supports our mission through construction, family services, volunteer management, fundraising, land acquisition, finance, communication, marketing, legal, and outreach.
“Everything we did was internal. We did all of our own mortgages. We did our construction. And since then we have grown to a team of over 50, and we have become much more engaged with the larger community to serve more families.”
This team carried Habitat OC through a recession, the elimination of redevelopment agencies, and the COVID-19 pandemic. With this interconnected approach, we successfully helped families achieve affordable homeownership and nearly doubled the number of Habitat homes in Orange County during Sharon’s tenure.
Habitat for Humanity’s First Veteran Family
In 2009, we welcomed home Habitat for Humanity’s first veteran family to our San Juan Capistrano development. Joe Morales, a Marine gunnery sergeant stationed in Iraq, and his wife Katia were living in a trailer on a Marine base before they achieved their dream of homeownership with Habitat OC.
It was a life-changing experience for the Morales family and a historic day for our Orange County affiliate and the extended Habitat network. It has led to more efforts to support veterans, including our Veteran Home Repair Program.
Launching our Home Repair and Neighborhood Revitalization Programs
Outside of our core homeownership efforts, Sharon helped launch two other important programs to serve and improve our community: the Hand Up Home Repair Program and Neighborhood Revitalization Program.
The Hand Up Home Repair Program helps keep the homes of limited-income seniors, veterans, and families in good repair with a focus on health, safety and accessibility. The Neighborhood Revitalization Program brings together faith groups, service organizations, and cities to build a strong foundation of social connectedness in the communities where we are building homes and enhance the quality of life for residents.
Strengthened Our Advocacy Efforts
Beyond the Orange County community, Sharon has been instrumental in helping legislators understand the importance of homeownership within the housing continuum.
She joined with other affiliates in our state to form Habitat for Humanity California to improve advocacy at the state level and provide education to affiliates. She previously served as chairwoman for Habitat California, and we are so grateful for the work she has done to give Habitat a voice in Sacramento.
Expanding Orange County’s Global Impact
Sharon is passionate about travel, so it’s no surprise that she has been involved with Habitat for Humanity on an international level.
She believes that Global Village trips are one of the most incredible ways to see the world. She has participated in at least 15 international trips and has brought Orange County teams to Nepal, Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Macedonia, and beyond.
A Legacy to be Proud Of
We asked Sharon what she is most proud of during her time as our President & CEO. Habitat California came to mind because of the significant long-term impact. She is also proud of the families we have helped.
If you’ve had a conversation with Sharon, you’ve likely heard one of her incredible dedication day stories. She’ll tell you about the excitement from children who are walking into their new homes for the first time: “It shows them that their parent’s hard work pays off … as a result of that hard work, they now have a home that they can all be proud of.”
It’s clear that there is nothing more gratifying to Sharon than knowing that a family can take a deep breath and feel secure in the knowledge that they have a place that is healthy, well built, clean, and all their own.
Thank you, Sharon, for your incredible legacy and for the passion you’ve passed on to ensure every family has a safe place to live.