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New executive director named at local Habitat for Humanity

John Parkes has spent a lot of time recently getting to know Goodhue County and the lay of the land. (photo by Kit Murray)

After spending most of his working life as a self-employed contractor, John Parkes, now executive director at Goodhue County Habitat for Humanity, thought it was time for something different.

"It had always been a dream of mine to work for Habitat for Humanity," Parkes said. "It matched my values and my skills."

Initially hired as a part-time construction outreach coordinator in October 2014, Parkes moved his way up after the recent executive director retired last March. Now, his time is spent continuing to do the things he loves, but this time for a different reason.

"I like being involved in construction. I know what's sloppy and what's not," Parkes said.

With help from a part-time administrator in the department who manages the data, Parkes can focus on his strengths. "It's not my sweet spot; doing that means I couldn't do some of the things I want."

While his favorite part of building a home plays a large role in the process, Parkes' job entails many components. "A lot of what I've been doing is learning the lay of the land."

His time is spent working on fundraising, reporting to state and international Habitat for Humanity and getting to better know the community. Volunteers play a large role, too, helping the organization generate revenue and work in the office or building or revitalizing a home.

The generosity from neighboring businesses and community members is always felt, Parkes said. Grants from Wells Fargo, Thrivent Financial, United Way and individual donors help keep the organization thriving.

"Without those grants, I don't know where we'd be," Parkes said.

Habitat for Humanity's mission focuses on providing homes for those who may not have the opportunity to call themselves a homeowner. Each year, Goodhue County has tried to have at least one home built along with other efforts in the community for those in need. But Parkes wants to increase that number to two homes each year, as was done last year.

The homes built in 2016 were in Red Wing and Cannon Falls, both for a single mother and her children. Next on the list is a home in Cannon Falls to be built in May.

A large issue that Parkes has run into, however, is the inflating cost of housing and land in Goodhue County. The lack of affordable locations causes a challenge when trying to sweep up a spot for a family.

Parkes said he hopes that the community will continue to show its appreciation for the organization by offering to volunteer and continuing to donate. While his goal is to expand the reach in the community, Parkes encourages those interested to visit to stay up to date on events and become more involved.

Kit Murray

Kit Murray joined Red Wing Republican Eagle in Aug. 2016, covering government, transportation and public safety. She is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in photojournalism and philosophy. 

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