Chief Development Officer, Habitat for Humanity
Growing up, Laine Himmelmann’s mother told her if she was kind, worked hard and didn’t give up hope, good things could happen. “That always really resonated with me,” she says. “It’s something that I’ve tried to be personally and professionally — kind but driven.”
As chief development officer for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento, Himmelmann has put that advice to work, helping to raise a staggering $20 million and finishing 2021 in the nonprofit’s strongest financial position to date. “All of that is from being able to connect people to the impact that we have and the pride of being a part of that. Everybody wants to be a part of something that makes a difference, you know?”
Himmelman, 34, manages fundraising and the organization’s volunteer program — which oversees about 2,000 volunteers a year — on top of public relations, communication, marketing and media relations. It has generated over 1,000 earned media pieces in the past decade. “I think that storytelling is really what I’ve built my career on,” says the Gonzaga University graduate, who majored in English.
“How wonderful it is to be reminded that there are good people out there.”Laine Himmelmann, Chief Development Officer, Habitat for Humanity
Starting out at Habitat for Humanity as a development assistant in 2010, she was inspired by seeing companies, professionals, advocates and low-income families come together to help underserved communities — and wanted to tell everyone about it. “I became very passionate,” says Himmelmann. “I would tell people in my day-to-day life all about the work that I was doing and how excited I was to be a really small part of it.”
She quickly educated herself on how to write press releases and connect with the media, developing a system for documenting the inspiring stories of the families the organization helps. Each qualified “Habitat partner family” must put in 500 hours of “sweat equity,” working alongside volunteers to build their home and the homes of their future neighbors, often overcoming serious challenges and conditions to get there.
“They’re living in garages, overcrowded, moldy apartments, and sometimes working two or three minimum wage jobs,” she explains. “On top of that, they’re coming out and literally digging the trenches and raising the walls of their home.” The homes are a springboard toward bigger dreams than just surviving, she says.
As home prices, rent and homelessness continue to skyrocket, Himmelmann is proud Habitat has come back stronger since the start of the pandemic. It is now preparing to break ground on The Cornerstone, a new project in partnership with Mutual Housing and the Sacramento Housing Redevelopment Agency designed to provide affordable housing for over 400 low-income individuals. It will be the organization’s biggest project in 36 years.
At Habitat’s recent “Rock the Block” event in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood, a team of over 500 volunteers turned out to complete 22 home repairs, five community projects and a community cleanup — all in two days. Residents told Himmelman how much it meant to them. “There’s so much going on in the world today. I kept hearing how wonderful it is to be reminded that there are good people out there and lots of things to be hopeful for,” she says. “I think that’s another thing that’s very important about our work, is the hope.”
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