Ray Finney: Founder and Pioneer Volunteer

Ray Finney and his wife Teddy have always had a passion for service. So in 1979, when Ray’s friend from Georgia told him about a new organization – Habitat for Humanity – the couple immediately connected with its mission.

“The Denver housing market was bad in the late 1970s. With the boom of oil, gas and telecommunications industries, many blue-collar jobs diminished, and low-income families were forced out of the city,” Ray says. “After learning more about Habitat for Humanity and its mission, Teddy and I immediately said yes and began spreading the word.”

With a handful of volunteers, Ray and Teddy’s basement turned into the new Habitat headquarters. After working tirelessly to fundraise, acquire land, select a partner family, and navigate the difficult logistics of building, Ray and his team completed the first home in 1980. Ray credits this milestone to the close relationships he was able to create with different workers’ unions in metro Denver as well as churches.

“I remember digging the foundation for the first home with a few shovels and a couple volunteers early on a Saturday morning. The foundation was about 20’ x 40’ wide and we knew it would take forever. But then a gentleman from the Denver Engineering Union came with a front-end loading machine and finished the job in less than 15 minutes. The kindness of this gentleman not only sped up the process, but it gave us hope that the community genuinely cared about affordable homeownership.”

“This work is so important. It is one thing to raise funds and swing a hammer, but the real satisfaction comes from driving by a house you built 35-years ago and seeing it filled with love and be well taken care of. That is when you know you have really made an impact on a family’s life.”

His legacy as the “Father of Habitat Metro Denver” lives on as we award a volunteer annually with the Ray Finney Award. The person awarded this recognition demonstrates service above and beyond the call of duty, and who exemplifies asking others to get involved.

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