Tile Partners for Humanity Ceramic tile industry accepts the challenge to deliver low-income housing.
September 1st, 2004


September-October 2004

Tiles. Setting Materials. Tools. Labor. Training. Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH) offers a variety of avenues for industry professionals to take part in a worldwide effort to end substandard housing. There is no reason not to become part of this ongoing effort.

TPFH was established 2-½ years ago to bring the tile industry together, promote the industry and do something for charity. Gray LaFortune, Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Institute of America and one of the TPFH founders, says that since the first TPFH build in LaGrange, Georgia, TPFH has installed close to 100,000 square feet of tile.

“This is a win-win for the industry,” says LaFortune. Manufacturers and distributors are able to donate unused materials, for a tax deduction, and promote the installation and benefits of ceramic tile at the same time.

Some might call it a win-win-win. As one of only a handful of national Habitat for Humanity affiliates, TPFH is also in the business of helping to deliver affordable home ownership to families who would otherwise not share in that dream.

(For anyone unfamiliar with it, Habitat for Humanity International is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. Its goal is to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness. Habitat for Humanity’s work is accomplished at the community level by independent, locally-run affiliates. Each affiliate coordinates all aspects of Habitat home building in its local area-fund raising, building site selection, partner family selection and support, house construction and mortgage servicing.)

Tile contributions are the basic ingredient in the program, and the contributions-like the Habitat builds-come in all sizes. Although many builds are one to five houses, some are as large as the 25-house build planned for Indianapolis this fall. Jason McKistry is president of the West Coast Habitat for Humanity Resource Center, a new organization that warehouses and distributes tiles to twenty-two Habitat affiliate chapters in southern California and two in Nevada. McKistry explains that this support to the affiliates leaves them more money for building houses.

Throughout the process, TPFH has also donated the labor-in addition to tile, setting materials, and tools-for installation. According to LaFortune, labor has been the hardest commodity to acquire. As a result TPFH has focused on training Habitat volunteers, many of whom have already been trained in other construction areas like framing and drywall, to install ceramic tile. The first training sessions were held this spring in Costa Mesa, California. John Aldredge and Kory Jones of Custom Building Products, Inc., led one session and LaFortune led another.

In an industry like ceramic tile, where there is a critical shortage of trained professionals, introducing Habitat volunteers and prospective homeowners to the profession opens the door to prospective installers. The tile industry also wins by showcasing a durable, easily-maintained product.

TPFH is also very much about the intangible rewards of volunteering. Gill Turner, wife of NATTCO CEO Brian Turner, says their experience working on a recent Houston build “was very fulfilling to work with volunteers and homeowners.”

NATTCO has supported TPFH since the first build in Georgia. The Turners volunteered to help in Houston to get a closer look at the whole project. As it turned out, homeowner Tracy Scoby happened to be at the site when the floor in his new kitchen was about to be tiled. With Brian turner as teacher and coach, Scoby did much of the tiling himself.

Time and again, these are the kind of stories Habitat volunteers tell. As TPFH Executive Director Allyson Fertitta says, “It’s not a hard message to sell.”

To learn more about donating materials or volunteering, go to www.tpfh.com.

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