Lori Wise began helping at Habitat for Humanity home sites while in her 20s. Now she helps applicants delve into budgeting and finances as they embark on home ownership.
Lori Wise walked through a small York City apartment with one of her York Health Corporation’s social services clients. It was the 1990s, and city apartments were hard to come by.
A bare electric wire dangled above where a dining room table was supposed to be, a single bulb attached to it.
An icy breeze cut through the room, streaming in from the edges of the drafty ancient windows.
The refrigerator and stove were so old that Lori wasn’t sure they worked. A postage stamp-sized countertop between them offered little space to create a meal for a family.
At $1,200 a month, the rent for the two-bedroom apartment was well above what Lori was paying for her mortgage, and the rent didn’t even include utilities.
“The things I saw in York were horrific,” Lori says. “Habitat is a way, to take what I have seen, and how bad it is, and to know that there is something that can be done.”
Commitment and community connection
As a devoted volunteer with York Habitat for Humanity, Lori embraces a commitment deeply rooted, not only in her experiences with housing shortages and unhealthy rental options, but also in family tradition.
It began in the 1970s, when Lori’s parents, recognizing the importance of Habitat’s newly formed mission, started contributing to the cause.
Lori’s involvement evolved over the years, taking her from occasional work at building sites and volunteer opportunities to churches from Florida to North Carolina. In 2019, after an invitation from Terri Abruzzese, York Habitat for Humanity Office and Family Services Manager, she joined the Family Services Committee.
Balancing finances and building futures
As a Family Services volunteer, Lori guides clients through the financial aspects of homeownership. She teaches budgeting and financial literacy to Habitat families, providing them with the tools to manage their finances effectively.
Her background in finance seamlessly blends with her volunteer work, allowing her to provide valuable insights and support to families navigating the challenges of budgeting.
While many associate Habitat with construction work, Lori notes that there are many less-publicized but equally crucial volunteer opportunities behind the scenes that require a diverse range of skills
“It’s mostly volunteers since there aren’t many staff at Habitat.” she says.
Changing lives, one budget at a time
For Lori, helping families understand and manage their finances has become a passion with a transformative impact. By empowering families through practical budgeting skills, she is on a mission to shift generational thinking about money.
Purchasing a home through York Habitat for Humanity is no small feat, and houses aren’t simply given away. Families have to show proof of consistent income, put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity, and be transparent about their finances.
The families Habitat works with are often trapped in a cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. Through financial counseling services, the organization aims to instill financial literacy, confidence, and a focused mindset that help families prepare for future expenses.
“I think finance is something that we assume that a lot of people have experience with, but most people aren’t taught,” Lori says. “Finance makes a world of difference in being able to have some peace and joy in their life.”
After decades of volunteering with Habitat in a variety of roles, Lori finds it most rewarding to witness families achieve homeownership. Attending house dedications is a source of immense happiness for her, especially when children excitedly claim their new bedrooms.
“If you're looking to donate time or money to an organization who makes a difference in your community, Habitat is it,” Lori says. “They’re very focused on their mission and that’s what they do.”