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Thrivent Financial for Lutherans investing nearly $1.7 million in Milwaukee’s Harambee community

Governor Jim Doyle commends commitment to build homes and bolster revitalization and confidence in neighborhood

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (Dec. 20, 2007) – Donna Handel, known in the neighborhood as “Momma Donna,” has seen the best and worst of times during her many years living in the Harambee community. Because of her personal dedication to bringing safety to the streets and bringing neighbors together, Handel is thrilled Thrivent Financial for Lutherans wants to invest in the future of Harambee.

“We will become a thriving community,” said Donna Handel. “With the help of business and organizations, our future looks bright.”

Through an unprecedented alliance with Habitat for Humanity, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is providing nearly $1.7 million dollars to build homes and improve multiple aspects of Milwaukee’s Harambee community. The funding is in addition to a previous contribution of nearly $1.3 million made by Thrivent Financial and its Foundation earlier this year in the Harambee community.

Thrivent Financial representatives made the nearly $1.7 million announcement of this commitment for revitalization during a ceremony this afternoon at Clinton Rose Senior Center, 3045 North Martin Luther King Drive, which is located in the Harambee community. An 8-foot by 24-foot mural illustrating the history and strength of Harambee also was unveiled. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle commended Thrivent Financial for its commitment.

“This is a tremendous investment in the future of Milwaukee,” Governor Doyle said. “Thrivent has already done so much to help hundreds of families establish a bright financial future. Today’s donation will help many more families own a home that is a safe place to live and raise a family. Thrivent’s donation will help Habitat for Humanity build stronger families, a stronger neighborhood and a stronger city.”

The nearly $1.7 million in funding will be directed through two programs of Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity, a $125 million, four-year alliance between Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Habitat for Humanity International.

First, $689,980 will go to Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity to build 10 more homes in the Harambee community through the 2008 Thrivent Builds Homes program. Ten families are already in homes constructed through this program in 2007, making a total of 20 new Thrivent Builds homes in the Harambee community by the end of next year. These homes mirror other Habitat homes but have a greater focus on volunteers from local Thrivent volunteer chapters and Lutheran congregations.

“Thrivent Builds is a historic alliance for us that provides both financial and volunteer support to help us to increase our capacity,” said Sara Kierzek, executive director of Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. “By building 20 homes in the Harambee community, we are helping more families realize the dream of owning a safe, decent and affordable house.”

The other $1 million, through the Thrivent Builds Neighborhoods program, will go toward implementing the Harambee Great Neighborhood Plan. Earlier in the year, Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity provided a $75,000 planning grant to develop a written neighborhood plan that employs holistic community development to achieve transformation. The plan was developed over the past year by the Harambee Great Neighborhood Steering Committee, a coalition consisting of residents and community organizations, including Milwaukee Habitat and Thrivent Financial. The $1 million serves as seed money to leverage an additional $22 million in development and investment in the Harambee community and its organizations over the next three years.

“We will do more together than we could do individually,” said Jim Fischer, managing partner of the Southeast Wisconsin Region of Thrivent Financial. “Harambee is a Swahili word meaning ‘let’s pull together,’ so it is appropriate that so many community partners are working together to strengthen this Milwaukee community.”

“While we worked on this plan, it was heartwarming to see all individuals and entities coming together for the good of the neighborhood,” said J. Allen Stokes, chairman pro tem of the Harambee Great Neighborhood Steering Committee and managing general partner of Inner City Redevelopment Corporation. “It’s appropriate that this announcement is coming during the holiday season when we all should be focused on giving, caring and sharing.”

Harambee Great Neighborhood Plan
Prior to developing a neighborhood plan, various groups were working individually toward improvement in the Harambee community. The Thrivent Builds Neighborhoods program’s goal to develop a holistic and comprehensive neighborhood action plan brought more than 30 local organizations and nearly 100 residents around the same table to document a plan on how they will work together to strengthen the Harambee community. The Harambee Great Neighborhood Steering Committee includes a dozen local organizations and will add 15 residents and business owners in 2008.

These stakeholders identified a vision that includes making Harambee “a neighborhood of choice” for residents, potential homebuyers, businesses, institutions and government. It will be a place that people want to move to and remain, where businesses find an attractive market and where government makes investments similar in size and impact to those in other Milwaukee neighborhoods. Overall, the vision for Harambee is a place where neighbors and the nearby institutions are engaged with each other.

The Harambee Great Neighborhood Plan will make their vision a reality by:

Constructing, rehabbing and selling 100–150 homes in the Harambee community;

Developing programs to help low-income homeowners make repairs and improvements to their homes;

Providing financial assistance to neighborhood groups for carrying out community pride projects such as vacant lot clean-ups, house lighting, landscaping and other activities to connect neighbors and create positive neighborhood image;

Supporting the organization of a series of events to bring family and cultural activities to Clinton Rose Park.

In addition, the Harambee Great Neighborhood Steering Committee will continue to develop programs that also focus on education, the neighborhood housing market, creating jobs, improving public safety, health and the environment.

“Momma Donna” is already seeing the impact of the community’s vision to come together—more neighbors are sitting on their front porch and talking with their neighbors. Donna believes in the new vision for Harambee and plans to be active in bringing positive change for her community.

“This is an exciting plan and I can’t wait to start seeing the activity taking place,” said Handel. “My greatest hope is that former strangers get to know each other as neighbors and include each other in making the Harambee community the best it can be.”

Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity is a four-year, $125 million alliance between Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Habitat for Humanity International. The alliance makes Thrivent Financial one of Habitat’s largest single allies and aims to increase Habitat’s annual house production by hundreds of U.S. homes per year and more around the world. In 2008, 322 homes are being built in 42 states and more than 200 trips are planned for worldwide projects. For more information, visit

About Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and the Southeast Wisconsin Region
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a not-for-profit Fortune 500 financial services organization helping nearly 3 million members achieve their financial goals and give back to their communities. Locally, the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Financial Office is made up of 64 financial representatives and provides financial products and services to more than 46,000 households in Jefferson, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, and Waukesha counties. Together with its members, Thrivent Financial’s Southeast Wisconsin Region provided more than $8.7 million in charitable outreach in 2006. For more information, visit or

Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1 million people. For more information, visit

About Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity
Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit Christian housing ministry dedicated to building decent, affordable housing in partnership with those in need in the Milwaukee area. Since 1984, Milwaukee Habitat has worked with 325 families to build or rehabilitate homes. By year end that total will be 362 families! For more information, visit