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Title News - November/December 2005

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November/December 2005 - Volume 84 Number 6

Hammering Home the American Dream

by Chase Bryant

The standard “About LandAmerica” statement found at the end of company press releases gives the essential facts: The companies of LandAmerica have been completing and protecting the nation’s real estate investments for nearly 130 years.

However, look behind this statement, and you’ll find a company driven by a core set of values and beliefs called Guiding Principles. These ten principles - one of which is Responsible Corporate Citizenship - shape LandAmerica, benefit its customers, and favorably impact the many communities where the company operates. The embodiment of these principles is the LandAmerica Foundation, a group that makes significant financial contributions to worthy causes and charities. In addition, each employee of LandAmerica is charged with living and leading the Guiding Principles every day. Each year, many employees generously volunteer to help and support organizations such as Special Olympics, the United Way, and Habitat for Humanity.

A History of Hope
Headquartered in Richmond, VA, LandAmerica has been a sponsor of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter since the mid-1990s. As a sponsor LandAmerica provides the funds and labor to build one home. For the first Habitat house, all Richmond employees were given one day off with pay in order to wield hammers and paintbrushes at the build site. That first experience was such a success that building a Habitat house has become an annual tradition, including a day off for employees to help build the house.

Each year when the time comes to build another house, 10 to 15 employees will be out on any given day at the construction site. Different departments will take turns being assigned days off. “It’s a major scheduling event at headquarters,” said Helen Parham, vice president of corporate relations.

In addition to providing funds for the construction and staff to help build the house, one LandAmerica employee is on the job site every day to coordinate volunteers, answer questions, ensure lunch is delivered to each employee, and take photos to show co-workers back in the office.

“In addition to making a contribution to the community,” says Lana Tate, help desk manager and dedicated Habitat supporter, “it is a terrific way to get to know your co-workers better. The unity forged at the construction site tends to carry over to the office.”

To date, LandAmerica has enabled nine Richmond area families to achieve the goal of homeownership at a sponsorship cost of approximately $540,000.

One Special House
The Habitat house completed in spring 2005 was especially dear to the hearts of many Richmond area employees. The company dedicated the house to the memory of Russ Jordan, a retired employee who passed away in April 2004. Over 200 volunteers from LandAmerica rallied under the cry of “Build a house in 8 weeks? We can swing it...together!” (see below) Everyone who worked on the house signed a special board, which was subsequently used to frame the house. For those who knew and worked with Jordan, the house was a fitting tribute to the man who began his career in the legal department of Lawyers Title in 1969 - and who, in the ensuing decades, reached the pinnacle of his profession serving as LandAmerica executive vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary. Jordan worked on many Habitat houses over the years. At his request, this Habitat house was painted blue, one of his favorite colors.

Where There’s a Will and a Paintbrush
It takes about 200 volunteers to build a Habitat house from start to finish. While most of LandAmerica’s 800-plus direct offices are simply not big enough to provide funds and staff to build a house alone, many have found creative ways to partner with Habitat.

The Tran house in Arizona is a good example. The Trans, a Vietnamese family of seven, including a husband and wife and their son, the husband’s parents, and his sister and her husband had been living in a 30-year old, two-bedroom mobile home with faulty electrical wiring and warped floors and ceiling.

“We wanted them to have an affordable, decent, and safe home,” said Rachel Reyes, administrative assistant for LandAmerica Transnation in Phoenix, Arizona. “So we partnered with other groups to built them a home.” Reyes and others in her office worked through Habitat for Humanity’s Adopt-A-Home Program. They participated with other companies in an “all-woman build” with professional women crew chiefs overseeing female-only volunteers.

According to Reyes, response to Habitat’s call for women volunteers was amazing. “We were elated to see so many of our co-workers give up two Saturdays, as well as make financial donations, to help with such a worthy cause,” she explains, noting that each day was declared “LandAmerica Day.” Reyes added, “We had volunteers from almost every department, and even many of our family members and friends joined in to help build.”

The day the Tran’s new home was dedicated was one of joyous celebration, with family, friends, volunteers, neighbors, and sponsors present. “The Trans were so appreciative and grateful for everything done for them,” Reyes remembers. “Their constant smiles touched us all more than words could say.”

Another way to get involved is to contact your local Habitat chapter. Volunteers are always needed, and you can call and volunteer for one day if that is all the time you have.

About Habitat for Humanity
How much do you know about Habitat, how families are selected, and what they must give in return?

Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976 by Linda and Millard Fuller. Their dream was to eliminate poverty housing worldwide and make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. A nonprofit, ecumenical organization, Habitat is committed to two ideals: providing affordable homeownership opportunities to low-income families and building new relationships and a sense of community by bringing needy and affluent people together in equal partnership.

Habitat for Humanity is not a giveaway program, but a joint venture in which those who benefit from the housing are involved in the work at various levels. Each homeowner family is required to invest “sweat equity” hours in the construction of their new home. This reduces the cost of the house, increases pride of ownership among family members, and fosters the development of positive relationships with other persons.

Once completed, Habitat houses are purchased by the homeowner families. Three factors make the houses affordable:

  • Houses are sold at no profit, with no interest charged on the mortgage
  • Homeowners and volunteers build the houses under trained supervision
  • Individuals, corporations, faith groups, and others provide financial support

Homeowner families are chosen according to their need, their ability to repay the no-profit, no-interest mortgage, and their willingness to work in partnership with Habitat.

Currently, Habitat operates in all 50 states. Since its inception, it has built more than 200,000 houses in nearly 100 countries, providing simple, decent, and affordable home ownership for more than one million people. Throughout the world, the cost of houses varies from as little as $800 in some developing countries to an average of $46,600 in the United States. Small monthly mortgage payments, including taxes and insurance, are repaid over seven to 20 years and deposited in a revolving “Fund for Humanity,” which supports the construction of additional houses.

A Natural Fit
LandAmerica’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity is an enormous success thanks to a great cooperative effort between management and employees. Bill Thornton, executive vice president - marketing, and a trustee of the LandAmerica Foundation, says “the company’s commitment to Habitat is particularly appropriate for LandAmerica given its integral tie to real estate. We think it’s a great fit for the title industry in general, and we encourage other title companies to get involved.”

LandAmerica’s President and CEO, Theodore L. Chandler, Jr., agrees. “On the most personal level, support of Habitat for Humanity exemplifies our strong sense of community, our civic responsibility, and our concern for those in need,” says Chandler.

“The simple fact is that when you reach out to help others, you change lives. And when you help a family achieve the dream of owning a home, you cause a change that is truly profound.”

Chase Bryant is AVP - corporate communications for LandAmerica Financial Services, Inc., Richmond, VA. She can be reached at cbryant@landam.com.



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