Koncz to stay on home front

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 4, 2005

Dismissed Habitat coordinator asserts money raised in Suffolk doesn’t remainlocal;

says she’ll continue building homes

By Allison T. Williams

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Building Suffolk Inc. may not wear the Habitat name.

But that won’t deter the new organization from providing affordable housing for Suffolk residents, said founder Angela Koncz, the recently ousted project manager of Suffolk Habitat for Humanity.

South Hampton Roads Habitat for Humanity severed its relationship with Koncz on Tuesday after finding out that she had established the competing nonprofit group. That organization oversees the release of funding for all Habitat projects in the region.

Koncz said she doesn’t expect difficulties in fundraising, largely because of its ongoing relationship with Suffolk Habitat founder Fran Alwood.

&uot;People trust her judgment,&uot; she said. &uot;As long as we stay true to the mission to provide affordable housing for Suffolk residents, people will have trust in Suffolk Building.&uot;

Alwood is out of town this week and could not be reached for comment.

The decision to create the separate organization wasn’t made lightly, Koncz said.

She said she and other local Habitat leaders consulted with volunteers, local corporate donors and religious leaders before establishing the new entity.

Issues that led to the break include:

nIn January, Koncz said Habitat officials advised her that local officials would no longer participate in selecting new homeowners.

John Morton, South Hampton Roads’ executive director, said changes were made at that time.

But as project manager, Koncz is supposed to be serving on the regional selection committee, he said. He said she has not shown up to any committee meetings.

Koncz said regional officials also told her the organization may be building houses in Suffolk for families moving in from other cities.

&uot;We were vehemently opposed to that,&uot; she said. &uot;…We feel obligated to be eradicating homelessness in our city.&uot;

The South Hampton Roads affiliate is committed to providing housing in Suffolk for existing city residents, said Morton.

He said he recently met with Clarissa McAdoo, executive director of the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, to reiterate that point.

&uot;As long as there are affordable housing needs in Suffolk, projects will go to (qualifying) people there first,&uot; Morgan said. &uot;They will be top priority for homes built in Suffolk with Suffolk money.&uot;

nKoncz also expressed concern that money raised in Suffolk was not always going to fund local projects.

&uot;People can know that all money raised by Building Suffolk will stay in Suffolk,&uot; she said.

Currently, contributions to South Hampton Roads that are earmarked for Suffolk are placed into a separate account designated for projects in the city, Morgan said.

With regard to concerns over money raised at a recent benefit dinner, all money generated by the Hearts and Hammers fundraiser has been turned into the regional office, Koncz maintains.

Checks totaling $830 were turned into the organization shortly after the April event, she added. In years past, the event has raised about $3,000.

The event raised significantly less this year because of South Hampton Roads’ refusal to support the appearance of Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity International, Koncz said.

Fuller spoke in Suffolk several weeks after being fired by Habitat’s international board for alleged inappropriate conduct toward a female employee.

Regional Habitat officials said it wouldn’t take any donations from the dinner if Fuller appeared, Koncz said. Consequently, no contributions were taken that evening, she said.

But the statements of expenses and money raised still doesn’t add up, Morgan said.

Also, Koncz said, all proceeds from an ongoing art sale at Shooting Star Gallery will go to the regional Habitat affiliate – just as it was always intended, she said.

Suffolk Habitat volunteers have supported the decision to go independent, Koncz said. She said many are unwilling to continue working on the Charles Street project, which is slated to be finished by June, without her as project manager.

But Koncz said she wants the community to finish the build.

&uot;I don’t want Suffolk residents to think we walked out on this house,&uot; Koncz said. &uot;This is not about me, this is about Habitat.&uot;

Jeff Sletten, a veteran Suffolk Habitat volunteer, is planning to go to the building site at 10 a.m. Saturday when Morgan and other South Hampton Roads volunteers will be gathering to work.

But he is unsure whether his affinity will be with Habitat or Building Suffolk.

&uot;I like Habitat overall as an organization,&uot; Sletten said. &uot;But I want to see the direction Habitat is going to take in the Suffolk community.

&uot;My goal is to be involved in the organization that is meeting the needs of Suffolk to its greatest ability.

He does believe the South Hampton Roads affiliate has long ignored Suffolk and other outlying communities in its district.

&uot;Suffolk is definitely neglected,&uot; Sletten said. &uot;I’m happy that South Hampton Road is coming in to finish this home.

&uot;But I’m disappointed that this is the only time they have come out here to help us.&uot;