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Tracy’s Green Building Journey

This piece was written by Mallory Wilmoth, a Media and Journalism student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Wilmoth is part of a PR writing class that partners with local nonprofit organizations.

As another Thursday morning rolls around, Tracy McInturff follows her usual routine. A quick ride to the Chatham Habitat for Humanity office, followed by grabbing the truck keys and heading off to Willy’s to pick up donated cinnamon rolls for volunteers.

As the sweet smells fill up the work truck, McInturff heads to the construction site to check up on the site supervisors and assist in any way she can. After that, she heads back to the office to start processing bills that have to be coded and assigned to each housing project. From physical labor, like pitching in as a work leader on site, to administrative work, like verifying subcontractors’ liability insurance, McInturff stays flexible and makes a significant impact on Chatham Habitat.

Every Thursday, McInturff dedicates her time to Chatham Habitat, which is a nonprofit with administrators and hundreds of volunteers working to make homeownership possible for low-income families.

McInturff came to Chatham Habitat three years after she sold her second house and just after she committed to a one-year term with AmeriCorps. She had not realized that her income dropped so low that she became ineligible for a standard mortgage through the normal lending institutions. Suddenly, McInturff found herself faced with high rent, a low income, and a young child to raise.

While looking for a part-time job to supplement her self-employment income, McInturff was surprised to see an opening at Chatham Habitat for a position in construction administration. Happy to see that Chatham Habitat had implemented solar into every new home, McInturff knew this job would be an excellent fit to compliment her previous training and her passion for green building.

“My interest-free mortgage has made my overhead manageable so that I could afford to work in the nonprofit industry, complete my bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and stash a little money away for emergencies,” McInturff said.

McInturff’s passion for sustainable living, starting at an early age, would eventually lead to a positive change at Chatham Habitat. McInturff’s passion stems from growing up in rural Pennsylvania, where her father had to be smart in the way he used materials. Her family’s farmhouse, which had no air conditioning, was made of 18-inch-thick walls of locally collected rocks, held together with horse hair and mud.

“I translated my father’s frugality into my actions; composting all food waste, burning my paper trash, and salvaging materials that could prove useful as the availability of supplies diminished,” McInturff said.

She later went on to study building and the natural environment through classes at Central Carolina Community College with trade-masters and did a lot of volunteer work for places that promote sustainability. She brought this aspect of her passion to her team at Chatham Habitat. She built a “small house” as managing director for Ecoheal’s rammed earth/cob structure in Chapel Hill and has attended many workshops on using solar energy in homes that she helps build. As a homeowner and a staff member, McInturff was able to achieve her mission of proving that affordable housing could be beautiful while staying at the same price as stick built construction.

“I was somehow able to convince the organization to think outside the box and let me run with my idea and eventually, it worked!” McInturff said.

Despite the obstacles McInturff has faced, she has continued to prove that hard work, perseverance and believing in yourself will pay off in the end. It is safe to say that her position with Chatham Habitat has been equally as rewarding to her as it has been to the community of Chatham County.

“My coworkers are good people and here for the right reasons. The construction team is some of the hardest working people I have ever met, and the houses that we are building today far exceed the quality of any track builder out there. I am very proud to be affiliated with Chatham Habitat!” McInturff said.

McInturff started a revolution of committing to environmentally friendly building around the Chatham County area. Click here to learn more about Chatham Habitat’s green building program.

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