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Construction Skills Help Kentuckians in Recovery Build New Lives

Published and Broadcasted

 by Public News Service on 3/04/2019

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HAZARD, Ky. — A new job training program in Eastern Kentucky will teach people in recovery from substance abuse how to build homes. 

The Housing Development Alliance, a non-profit organization in Hazard, has partnered with Perry County drug court and Hickory Hill Recovery Center to provide on-the-job construction training for men and women in recovery. They'll be paid for their labor through grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission. 

Scott McReynolds, executive director of the Housing Development Alliance, said the idea came to him after having volunteers in recovery help out with carpentry. He noticed the process of building a house was a meaningful experience for them. 

"After the training, when they're out looking for a full-time job, they'll be able to use us as a job reference,” McReynolds said. “And we can say to the future employer, 'This person showed up on time every day, they passed all their drug tests. They are ready for you to take a chance on them.’”

He said the grant of more than $800,000 will be used to pay trainees for their labor. Over three years, a small group of participants will build 15 new homes for moderate-income families in the region. 

One of the biggest hurdles for Kentuckians in recovery is the inability to find a job. McReynolds pointed out that people in the home-building program will have hard skills they can use to find long-term employment.

"I mean obviously there is some serious skill development. If they don't already know a lot about construction, they'll learn,” he said. “We're partnering with the community college, so they will actually be attending classes one day a week and receiving college credit and then, some certificates - you know like a residential roofer's certificate."

McReynolds said home building can boost the regional economy, especially in Eastern Kentucky where there's a need for affordable housing. The homes built through the program will be sold, with proceeds going back into the program to train more people in recovery.

Housing Development Alliance receives $800,000 grant for Hope Building Project

Published by WYMT on 2/22/2019

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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Housing Development Alliance (HDA) in Perry County received a grant for an opioid recovery workforce training program.

On Thursday the HDA was rewarded a grant for over $800,000 from the Appalachian Regional Commission to fund its Hope Building workforce development project.

The Hope Building project a partnership between HDA, Perry County Drug Court, Hickory Hill Recovery Center, Hazard Community and Technical College, Fahe, EKCEP, and other agencies will help people suffering from addiction succeed in recovery. This project will provide paid, on-the-job training in energy-efficient, residential construction to persons in recovery.

"The program is designed to help people succeed in recovery. What we learned from the recovery service provider is that one of the biggest obstacles to people succeeding in recovery is their reenter into the workforce. We wanted to work with them to create a program to help people transition from recovery back into the workforce," said HDA Executive Director Scott McReynolds.

Partnerships ready students for construction careers 

Published 7/15/2018

July/August 2018 
KJB Publication

See Page 9 for Article.

HDA helps Community members with 18th annual Repair Affair

Published 6/21/2018

By Katie Kelley (Hazard Herald) - On Saturday, June 16, the Housing Development Alliance held their 18th annual "Repair Affair," where volunteers gathered to work with the HDA in repairing houses at no cost to the families that live there. 

This year, volunteers helped repair nine residences throughout Perry County, including a residence in Yerkes, a residence in Viper, two residences in Bulan, two residences in Vicco, a residence in Bonnyman a residence in Hazard, and a residence in Cornettsville.

Timothy Baker, Director of Development and Communications for HDA, said that, each year the organization tries to work on 10 projects for the event, ideally having at least 10 volunteers at each site.

According to Baker, 77 volunteers from six different organizations participated in the event this year.  The volunteers came from the Perry County Drug Court, Perry County Central JROTC, Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Community, First Presbyterian Church of Hazard and the HAzard High School Theater Club.
"Thank God for the volunteers who will get out and help their community," said one of the homeowners.  "It's just me and my wife that lives out here and we aren't really able to get out and fix the house like we used to. I just want each of these volunteers to know that the work they are doing will be seen and appreciated for years to come."

During the day, volunteers worked to build and repair anything that was feasible to fix in one day.  Repairs often include porches, ramps, painting and roof repairs. The funding for the project is obtained through private donors and foundation grants, so the families do not have to worry about the costs of the repairs.  The largest sponsor this year was The Home Depot which donated 3,000 dollars in materials, Baker said. 
"The Repair Affair plays a critical role in our efforts to provide better housing to our community," Baker said.  "Most of the funding HDA receives throughout the year is limited by homeowner qualifications and amounts of assistance that can be awarded to individual homeowners. "This event helps to provide the unrestricted assets that are critical to help those in our community that have fallen between funding gaps," he continued.  "Through the generous donations of our supporters and the hours of time given by our volunteers , our community truly makes helping these families possible.  Each year the success of this event both inspires HDA to push forward and affirms that we are serving WITH our community and not just for our community.  A sincere appreciation is sent to all those who made this year's event a success.

Giving back comes full circle during Housing Development Alliance

Repair Affair

Published 6/16/2018

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PERRY COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Giving back came full circle this weekend.

Saturday, students with Hazard High School's theater club spent the morning helping the Housing Development Alliance Repair Homes for people in need after the Housing Alliance helped them build their set for their spring play.

"It really feels awesome because they didn't have to do that and I just think it was so kind that they did and I'm honored to be a part of this," said Eleni Karelis, President, Hazard Theater, Hazard High School.


"It feels really great because a lot of companies they pay for this stuff out of the goodness of their hearts and they don't get anything in return, so I think this is a good thank you," Justin Witt, Vice President, Hazard Theater, Hazard High School said.


Witt said he also learned new skills helping the HDA.


"Never drilled before, it's a lot harder than it looks and I had to hammer some things," said Witt.


Both Witt and Karelis said repairing homes for people in need helped them better the community and themselves.


"Repairing homes I think is a big issue because a lot of people are unable to, they've been injured, or they're too old to do things for themselves," Karelis said.

Cyclists help make dream home reality for Eastern Kentucky family

Published 6/12/2018

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PERRY COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - An Eastern Kentucky family is having their dream home turned into reality by strangers.

Tuesday, people with the Bike and Build Program helped put up the walls on the family's home. The group is biking across America, building and repairing homes for affordable housing organizations along the way.

"It really is amazing that they would come out and help people that they don't even know," said Molly Wooton, Homeowner.

Molly Wooton and her seven children, five girls and two boys, have waited a year and a half for their new home. The family of nine currently lives in a three-bedroom house, so Wooton says they are thrilled to have more space.

"The girls are excited to have their own bedrooms, they share a bedroom right now, so they're all going to have their own bedrooms and they're all just super excited," Wooton said. "It's our forever home, we plan on staying here forever."

The Bike and Build group is cycling 4,015 miles from Yorktown, Virginia to Portland, Oregon.

"I feel so blessed to have lived in one home my entire life and to have always known where I was going to sleep, and I am so happy to be able to give that to someone else," said Michael Nelson, Participant, Bike and Build.

"It's really been an awesome opportunity to almost walk a mile, or bike a mile in someone else's shoes throughout the trip so far, so really just kind of opening your eyes to the world out there has been a big impact," Skyler Settles, Participant, Bike and Build said.

Wooton says while the Bike and Build group is one of many who will be helping to build their dream home this summer, she is thankful for every single person.

"I would like to thank them all, every one of them, without them this wouldn't happen," said Wooton.

Wooton's house is expected to be finished in two to three months.

The Hazard and Perry County Chamber of Commerce held a dinner to welcome the group Tuesday night.

Some of the students are also teaching science, technology, engineering, and math classes while they are in Hazard.

"To spread STEM education through really hands-on workshops to the students that we work with and to dispel stereotypes about engineers and prove that we can be athletic, and friendly, and active, " said Massachusetts Institue of Technology student Kate Pearce.

The Bike and Build group is expected to reach their final destination of Portland, Oregon on August 12.

Group offering ways to lessen power bills.
Appalachia HEAT Squad

Published 1/10/2018

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PERRY COUNTY, (WYMT) - A week after the coldest temperatures fell on Eastern Kentucky many are bracing for what could be their most expensive electric bills of the year.

One group is working to help homeowners and renters alike make sure their homes are energy efficient.

The Appalachia HEAT Squad performs audits for homeowners for a small fee that for many turns out to be a positive investment.

"The initial cost is $50 but you're going to see a huge return you're going to see an evaluation of your home and you're going to be able to save the most money in your home with the least expensive costs of repairs or improvements and what we've seen typically is 15% to 30% savings on that utility cost," said Timothy Baker, Housing Development Alliance Director of Development and Communications

The audits typically last two hours as specialists go through every room letting the homeowner know where obvious places that air is getting into their homes are.

Officials say that windows and doors are obvious spots but also attic access points, electrical sockets, and laundry room piping. Officials also say there is one spot people can save a substantial amount of money at.

“One of the big things is not to go over three degrees at a time. When you go over three degrees it causes the heat pump to go into overdrive and costs more money to run," said Frank Morris a Housing Development Alliance Residential Energy Specialist.

The Heat Squad serves 9 counties throughout Eastern Kentucky. The Housing Development Alliance serves Knott, Breathitt, Leslie and Perry Counties. They also team up with COAP and HOMES to serve Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Floyd and Pike Counties so homeowners there have access to energy saving options as well.

Additionally, during the month of January, the Housing Alliance is doing a Facebook giveaway for a smart thermostat. The piece of equipment will pair with the homeowner's cell phone allowing them to program it and adjust the temperature and where at any time.

Building Homes Today, Developing a Workforce for the Future. 

Posted 12/7/2017

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Hazard, Kentucky- As unemployment rates in the region remain a consistent concern, the Housing Development Alliance (HDA) has partnered with Hazard Community and Technical College (HCTC) and Fahe, Inc. to bring a workforce development initiative to our communities.  The Make It S.Q.U.A.R.E. program provides the opportunity for students to gain real world experience as they continue to pursue a degree in construction technology through HCTC.  This program allows students the opportunity to gain experience in residential homebuilding, energy efficiency as they work hand in hand with HDA's professional carpentry staff.  This program will produce 7 high quality, long lasting and energy efficient homes for low-wealth families in the community over a three year span. 

As the need for a professionally trained and certified workforce continues to grow and the increase of energy cost continues to rise, students who graduate from HCTC's programs and can boast real work experience will be in high demand. 

Each student who participated in the first year of this program will receive their own set of tools for their dedication to the program and for their education.  This set of tools will lower the cost of entry into their career field once they have completed the program.  A grant for the tool sets were made possible by Toyota Motors Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK)      

A Tradition of Community continues in Hazard Kentucky

Hazard, Kentucky – Like many small, rural towns in central Appalachia, Hazard is home to a community that believes in hard work, selfless giving and “helping thy neighbor”.  This year, Hazard’s community shined as bright as ever.  More than 200 people and 20 organizations came together for the Housing Development Alliance’s 2017 Community House Raising event.  Similar to the Barn Raisings of old, the Community House Raising provides an opportunity for community members to come together and fellowship while working toward the common goal of providing a safe and affordable home to a neighboring family.  

On September 18th, the 2017 Community House Raising kicked off as a large group of eager volunteers arrived at the build site.  With a goal to complete this home in time for Thanksgiving, volunteers and supporters went straight to work.  Jane Rose Britton, Volunteer and Community Coordinator for HDA, said “The Community House Raising was a huge success! Volunteers flooded the site nearly every day and like the old saying goes, many hands made light work.”   

Volunteers came both, individually and from local organizations.  Organizations such as the Perry County Drug Court, Perry County Central’s JROTC, Perry County’s 4-H, Hazard High School, Teachers of East Perry Elementary School, Mother of Good Council, 1st Presbyterian Church and Hickory Hill Rehabilitation Center all played a major role by volunteering to help complete this home on time.  While some organizations volunteered many others provided financial support. One in particular was The Honorable Order of the Kentucky Colonels, who contributed to the event by providing HDA with a grant to purchase 10 energy efficient water heaters, one of which was used in the Community House Raising.

“Building a home to meet a deadline like this takes a lot of resources. Without the financial support of our many partners, local businesses and individual supporters, the Community House Raising would not have been possible”, says Scott McReynolds, Executive Director of HDA. 

Financial support came from all over. “We had people and organizations locally, regionally and from different states joining in to make this event happen.  One donation came all the way from Japan!” shared Timothy Baker, Director of Development and Communications for HDA. 

To celebrate the community’s success of building a home from footer to finish in just 33 days, HDA hosted an open house event at the build site on October 21st from noon to 1:00 p.m.  Volunteers, supporters and members of the community came to tour the completed home, have lunch and watch as the new homeowner received the keys for the very first time.   

With the 2017 Community House Raising complete, our community can rest well knowing their hard work, sacrifice, commitment and selfless giving has provided a local family with the opportunity to live better in a new home.    

"New Chance" for High Quality and Affordable Rental Apartments in Hazard 

The Housing Development Alliance (HDA) has been serving the heart of the Kentucky coal fields for over 20 years.  Widely known for building high quality, long lasting and affordable homes, HDA also plays a significant role in the local rental market.  Since 1993, HDA has built over 35 rental units inside the communities they serve.  Their latest project, located on 107 Eversole Street in Hazard, Kentucky is a duplex apartment named “New Chance”.  Built by HDA nearly 20 years ago, these apartments were owned and operated by the local and long time non-profit organization knowns as Community Ministries. With the steady decline in the local economy financial hardships fell upon Community Ministries, placing the units at risk of being lost to foreclosure.  Working tirelessly, HDA was able to work with Community Ministries and the Kentucky Housing Corporation (the original funder) to transfer the property and accept ownership. Though this saved the property from being lost, the work was long from over.  An assessment of the property revealed that nearly $60,000 of renovations would be needed to return these apartments to a standard of housing consistent with HDA’s mission.  With 12 local families on a waiting list for apartments and a growing number of calls and inquires coming in daily, it was important for HDA to get these units available quickly.  Volunteers from the Blessed Saints Youth Group (Cincinnati, OH), Highlands Christian Church (Frankfort, KY) and 1st Congressional Church (Washington D.C.) wasted no time as they jumped in to help with the downtown project. Donating a combined 407 hours of labor, these volunteers saved HDA nearly 6,000 in labor cost and helped to get these apartments completed quickly.  An additional 700 hours of labor and $45,000 dollars was invested by HDA before the project was fully completed.  These units now boast a list of new renovations which include new concrete parking spaces and walk ways, fresh paint in the interiors, new floor coverings, new bathroom fixtures and new energy star appliances throughout.  Already occupied, these apartments are modern, energy efficient and will serve our community for years to come. The Housing Development Alliance would like to extend their appreciation for all of the long hours and hard work provided by our volunteers and a special thank you to the Foundation of Appalachian Kentucky who provided $2,000 in the form of a grant for this major project.         

Volunteers Help Build House for People in Need

Posted 10/21/2017

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PERRY COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - After weeks of hard work and countless hours of labor from various organizations and volunteers in Perry County, one family was able to move into a new home.

Organizers with the Housing Development Alliance handed over keys to new homeowners as part of an affordable housing project.

Workers said seeing the community come together to pull this off. Shows how caring people in the area are.

“It's one thing for us to come in and help out with the financing, help them make it affordable, but it's another thing when 150-200 people in our community come out and say we want this to happen too,” said Timothy Baker, Director of Development and Communications at the Housing Development Alliance

Baker says 20 different local organizations helped with both construction and donating supplies.

Local Family Shines Bright; a Success Story
Published 6/28/2017

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By: Timothy Baker

Hazard, Kentucky – Nearly 16 years ago Donnie and Judy Combs was renting an apartment on East Main Street, working inside the city limits and raising their 2 year old daughter named Kaitlin.  As Kaitlin grew they soon became tired of the lack of space, tired of the lack of privacy and tired of paying for a place they would never own. At that time the Housing Development Alliance (HDA) had recently helped build Donnie’s mother, Bonnie Crabtree, a home, so the Combs family began to wonder if they too could become homeowners.  They took their first step toward their new dream and visited HDA’s office.  After discussing eligibility and requirements for the homeownership program with HDA, Judy and Donnie decided to begin the application process.  When the news of their loan, home design and building lot had been approved and construction had begun the Combs family was ecstatic.  After a few short months the home was completed and they were able to move in.  Immediately they fell in love with their new lifestyle.

 “It was the best decision we ever made for our family, the added privacy and safety of our new home was worth it all.” Judy told us. 

Since moving into their home, the Combs family has never looked back.  Donnie and Judy continue to uphold their two main priories; working hard to pay their bills and giving their daughter the opportunities she needs to succeed.

Now, some 16 years later, the Combs family continues to reap the rewards of their hard work and dedication.  Their most recent moment came on the 21st day of May when they got to witness their daughter Kaitlin walk across the stage to receive her diploma as a graduate of Hazard High School.  As tears of happiness and pride began to fall from Donnie and Judy, it was a reminder to us all that hard work and dedication pays off.  Donnie and Judy made a decision 16 years ago to work hard to become and remain a homeowner, in doing so they instilled that same work ethic in their daughter.  Kaitlin’s determination and mentality toward life was clear to see on graduation day.  Atop her graduation cap she had written in the form of a poem a belief that she lives her life by.  The cap read, “Mirror Mirror on the wall, I’ll always get up after I fall, and whether I run, walk or have to crawl, I’ll set my goals and achieve them all.”  With an attitude like this, we are excited to see how the future of Kaitlin unfolds. We are proud of the Combs family, Kaitlin and of all the recent graduates in our community.  As Kaitlin leaves for Morehead State University this fall to pursue her dream of becoming a trauma nurse, HDA wants to wish the Combs family the very best and say we are proud to have played, even a small part, in your success.  Congratulations!

2017 Repair Affair A Success!
Published 06/21/2017

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By: Timothy Baker

Hazard, KY – This past Saturday 89 volunteers teamed up with the Housing Development Alliance (HDA) to spread neighborly love during the annual Repair Affair event. This community strengthening event helps to raise awareness on the regions housing issues through a massive one day home repair initiative. The goal was to build three new porches, re-roof two homes, hang siding on two homes and paint another. These projects took place at 9 separate sites from all over the county.  With all of this work and temperature rising, we saw nothing but smiling faces from the home owners and volunteers alike.  Mary Catherine Gunter, group leader from the Grace Church Red Hill in Charlottesville, VA said. “Seeing a community, like this, who is dedicated to helping one another, is inspirational. We are blessed and happy to be a part of it.”  Grace Church brought two teams over 7 hours to join the Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Community, Hazard High School, Perry County Central’s ROTC, and the Perry County Drug Court in a combined effort to improve our community through housing.       

This year marked the 17th since HDA first began hosting the Repair Affair event and after talking with Perry County Central’s ROTC cadet and senior Justin Kennedy, it is clear to see why it is important for these events to continue within our communities.  “It’s important to give back to your community, when you dedicate time to help others you don’t just make a difference in their life; it makes a difference in your life too”.  This type of mentality is contagious and it is just as important as the repairs that are being completed.

Through numerous donations, unbelievable support, and a day of hard work from all of our volunteers those 9 homes inside of Perry County got the repairs they desperately needed.  Through community support HDA’s programs have helped over 1,200 people with their housing needs and for many families in our communities, like Shirley Tricker who said “I couldn’t have had this done any other way”, these events are sometimes the only affordable way for them to get repairs.

With 9 local families in our area living in better housing condition, HDA would like to send a sincere thanks to everyone in our community and abroad who made this event a success. We remind and encourage anyone wanting to get involved, there is no amount of time, money or sweat that doesn’t make a difference in our communities.

To make a difference you can see, go to hdahome.org or call 606-436-0497 to find out how.

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HDA Hits another Milestone:
250th House Completed
Published 03/30/2017

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HDA Hits another Milestone: 250th House Completed


Hazard, Kentucky – Housing Development Alliance (HDA) started building houses in 1993.  On March 23, 2017 the Grace Family of Hazard, Kentucky bought their brand new, high quality, energy efficient home built by HDA.  While selling houses is nothing new for the folks at HDA, this one is special.  It is the 250th home built and sold since our inception. 

HDA currently builds and sells in excess of 20 new homes per year but to reach 250 homes is quite an accomplishment for the local non-profit organization.  Building homes, however, is just the tip of the iceberg of what they do, last year they also completed their 635th repair project on homes in the area.  They look to extend that number to over 700 this year. 

The Grace family was very excited about their new home “We feel blessed, it’s a beautiful house inside and out and we couldn’t be more thankful.  Our family is so excited to move in and we look forward to all of the memories we will make there.  Thank you, Housing Development Alliance, for all the work you have done, it’s gorgeous!” says new home owner Jamie Grace.

There is a good chance someone you know has received housing assistance from HDA.  Over 2,300 people in the Breathitt, Knott, Leslie and Perry county areas have benefited by HDA’s homeownership program, home repair program or rental units.  In fact, that’s about 1 out of every 30 people in the area. In Perry County alone HDA has built 222 new homes and have completed 519 home repairs projects.  These numbers however, do not include the countless others they have helped through partnering as a lender, counselor, developer, and contractor.

Of this monumental accomplishment, Executive Director, Scott McReynolds says, “Completing and selling a new home isn’t very new to us anymore.  We have been doing it since 1993.  However, the feeling of putting a family in a new home never gets old.” 

 As HDA continues hitting milestone after milestone, they want to extend a sincere thanks to all of those who have helped in supporting their mission. HDA’s Jane Rose Britton, Volunteer and Community Coordinator, says “Our local volunteers have donate upward of 20,000 hours toward HDA projects. If not for them none of this would be possible.”  With the continued support of our donors and volunteers, just imagine what could be accomplished with your involvement.  To make a difference that you can see, call HDA at 606-436-0497 or react with us on Facebook to get involved.          

"Distant Neighbors" Providing Housing Assistance through HDA
published 03/09/2017

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 “Distant Neighbors” Providing Housing Assistance through HDA


Smilax, Kentucky – Last week you may have noticed some unfamiliar faces while seeing some very familiar white trucks, moving through the Smilax area of Leslie County.

The faces were those of the 10 volunteers who made the long trip from the campus of Michigan State University to our community to provide housing repair assistance.  The volunteers are a diverse group, who share a common internal passion of helping others.  The group of volunteers from Michigan State University found their opportunity to help after Bobby and Merkie Joseph contacted the Housing Development Alliance for assistance with their roof.  

Jada Yearwood, a group leader of the volunteers, told WYMT she decided to help others during her spring break instead of spending time at the beach. But she noted that the homeowners are not the only ones benefiting from the volunteer work.  Ms. Yearwood was happy to be in the cold hills of Leslie County spending her time helping; to her it was far more fulfilling than any amount of time burrowed in the sand of a crowded beach. 

Those familiar trucks belong to the Housing Development Alliance, a non-profit organization, who serves as lender, counselor, developer, and contractor for those who need housing assistance. They have done outstanding work in Leslie County and neighboring counties for the past 23 years and Executive Director, Scott McReynolds, says “There is much more to do.”  Housing is one of the reasons that families in our communities continue to struggle financially year after year.”

The Housing Development Alliance has built 11 new homes and has repaired or rehabilitated 32 inside of Leslie County. With 1 out of every 6 people in our community living on less than 10,000 dollars per year and the cost of housing and utility bills increasing, the need for better quality, sustainable and efficient homes is at an all-time high.

The Housing Development Alliance currently has two other teams of volunteers from Boston College helping in various locations in our region.  As construction is winding down for the week and the volunteers are set to return home, HDA begins preparation for more volunteers already on their way. 

We as a community need to continue the efforts of helping our neighbors.  We have always been a proud, hard-working area and no one person can do, what we all could do in a combined effort.

John F Kennedy once said “Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies”   It is time that we as neighbors and friends come together as partner and allies against the poverty and housing issues before us today.

 HDA would like to encourage everyone to get involved in our community.  If you have any questions about how you can get involved with the Housing Development Alliance in their continued mission to   strengthen our communities through creating high quality, long lasting, affordable homes. Give them a call at 606-436-0497 or react with them on Facebook.     

HDA has a sincere appreciation for the local news outlets that cover all of our stories.  Without this means of communications fewer families would be helped. Thank you.