Revealing Habitat for Humanity’s True Colors

Skagit Habitat for Humanity needed a new truck. Thanks to a grant from Peoples Bank, they got one…and thanks to Meyer Sign & Advertising (and  Peoples Bank again), they got a mobile billboard as well.

When Skagit Habitat for Humanity’s old Chevy pickup truck finally gave out, the Mount Vernon-based non-profit set its sights on a panel van — a vehicle that would be ideally suited to its Habitat Helpers program, which provides minor home repairs and maintenance for low income homeowners. “It’s a challenge to protect materials and tools when you transport them to a project site in a pickup,” said volunteer coordinator, Christy Brua. “It rains a lot here.”

Skagit Habitat for Humanity found the perfect van — a 2016 model — and were able to fund its purchase through a $25,000 Impact Grant from Peoples Bank. The $1.6 billion grant program, which the Bellingham-based bank began in January 2017, was created to support the work of local and regional nonprofits to improve communities where the bank’s employees and customers live and work.

“As a community bank, we have many customers who are working hard to get into their first home,” said Michelle Barrett, executive vice president and director of retail banking and human resources for Peoples Bank. “With rising housing costs and a growing homeless problem across our region, we felt this grant would address an urgent need in the community. Skagit Habitat for Humanity is at the forefront of helping families access affordable housing, and we were so impressed by their mission and the important work they do for people in the community.”

Affordable housing is an urgently felt need throughout Washington state, which saw a 7.3 percent rise in homelessness in 2016 — the second largest increase in homelessness in the country. There are now nearly 21,000 people in Washington State that are homeless according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Skagit County has the seventh-highest homeless population in the state, according to the Washington State Homeless Count. Of those that are homeless, almost half are children under 18, and about one in ten are senior citizens.

“Peoples Bank’s gift will keep on giving through the continued use of the van we purchased with this grant,” said Kimberly Bell, resource development coordinator. “Having the van allows more efficient use of time and resources that can be put back into our programs to serve more families in Skagit County. Affordable housing is at the forefront of conversation in our community, and this gift is a part of the solution.”

When it came to signage for the new vehicle, Bell wanted to go big and go bold with the latest branding from Habitat for Humanity International. “Beyond looks and color, we wanted the unity of voice that tells the same story, whether you’re in Atlanta, Indonesia, or Skagit County: the story of building strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.”

Unfortunately, the cost of the van itself didn’t leave much room in the non-profit’s budget to execute Bell’s branding vision. Once again, however, Peoples Bank stepped up — this time in the form of vice president and Burlington branch manager, Kim Walley. Walley had once served on the Skagit Habitat for Humanity board of directors and had first hand experience with its mission and its importance to her community. Her branch also had funds that could be contributed locally, and her grant review team decided to award Skagit Habitat for Humanity with a check for $1,000 to go toward a vinyl truck wrap for the new van.

What Walley finds particularly inspiring about the Habitat for Humanity experience in her community is the women whose lives have been changed through homeownership. “I’ve met some of these women and heard their stories. It makes you feel good to be a part of those stories in some small way. It has been moving to work beside them and see their dedication as they build their homes — some of which have already been paid off.”

Since its acquisition, Skagit Habitat for Humanity’s panel van has more than lived up to expectations. “We are in love with our van,” said Christy Brua. “Our tools and lumber stay safe and dry, and I’ve transported pallets of flooring with room to spare that would have required several trips with our old pickup.”

But there has been an additional benefit that gladdens our hearts as the sign company that Skagit Habitat for Humanity chose to do their vinyl truck wrap: visual impact and increased visibility. “At every single Habitat Helpers project, people from the neighborhood have come over and started talking to us about Habitat,” Christy noted. “We used to have small magnetic signs on the pickup truck, so we weren’t noticed as much. Now people look at it all the time while I’m driving.”

Kimberly Bell credits the new branding look with the added attention. “We have a very concrete message, and a cleaner and more modern look that delivers it: we are building shelter for families…through shelter we empower.” As a local sign maker, that’s an endeavor we’re proud to be associated with.