“We do this for the love of God and the love of people.”
Those are the words of Murali Thirumal who, until recently, served the local community as executive director of Habitat for Humanity Milledgeville-Baldwin County. Earlier this week, Thirumal handed over the reins to new executive director Amy Raburn, and he is confident he is leaving the organization in good hands.
“I think we are lucky and fortunate to have Amy, and I think Amy will do a fantastic job,” said Thirumal.
Thirumal had been executive director of the local Habitat affiliate since early 2013, and for the past year and a half, he has run the Habitat organizations for both Baldwin and Putnam counties. With Thirumal transitioning to focus solely on Putnam County, Raburn is at the helm in Milledgeville-Baldwin County. The pair has a history, with Raburn having previously served on the Habitat board. Thirumal and Raburn have also collaborated on service projects in the past, and he is thrilled to pass the torch on to her.
“My biggest accomplishment is sitting right here,” said Thirumal. “Hiring the next person is probably the most important thing anyone can do because you can sit and pat yourself on the back about everything you have done, but have you also done that next best step which is to package the existing organization for transition?”
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization that seeks to assist people with attaining affordable home ownership. Most of Habitat’s work is funded through various grants. Habitat for Humanity Milledgeville-Baldwin County began in the mid 1990s, and since then has served 22 families with homes. Additionally, the organization serves local residents who need assistance in making essential upgrades to their properties such as building wheelchair ramps and repairing broken porches.
Thirumal took over the local Habitat on the heels of a recession. With the assistance of the board, he was able to make decisions that kept the organization viable during a difficult time so it could continue its mission. Now, as the organization once again faces a new beginning coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, Thirumal feels it is only fitting that a new executive director lead the way.
Raburn is a Milledgeville native who most recently served as the connections pastor for Northridge Church since 2015. Through the outreach work she did for that job, Raburn said she feels she has made numerous connections in the community that will serve her well in her new role.
“Some of the things that I’m excited about doing is getting our community excited about just doing some revitalization work … and getting some volunteers from businesses and from churches, from civic organizations, just getting them all to work together,” said Raburn.
In the coming weeks, Raburn will participate in a comprehensive training program through Habitat for Humanity that will allow her to learn all of the ins and outs of running a local affiliate organization. Based on what she learns, she will then work with the local Habitat board to formulate a plan for the organization moving forward.
“We will be applying for grants and making a plan for how to best serve our community by following the mission of Habitat: ‘Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope,’” said Raburn.
Raburn knows that political divisions have run deep in recent years, and she hopes she can make Habitat a place for people to come together for the common goal of helping others have safe housing.
“I think the cool thing about Habitat is that it can be a place where people can come together and all agree that there’s a need,” said Raburn. “We see our home as a safe place, and there are a lot of people in this community that home is not a safe place.”
Additionally, with people staying close to home during the last year due to the pandemic, she is eager to get the word out so people can come out and volunteer once again.
“I feel like that’s something that we’ve all really missed during Covid is being able to just serve other people,” said Raburn.
Having been on the job for only a few days, Raburn already has the wheels in motion. Later this month, members of Church Central will donate time to help Habitat by cleaning out the organization’s warehouse and doing maintenance work at the Habitat offices. Raburn said she has already had numerous local leaders reaching out about volunteer opportunities down the road. She is eager to work with the local colleges as well to capitalize on the volunteer manpower that the student population brings to the community.
Raburn also plans to leverage her connections with the leaders of other local non-profits so that they can support each other in their support of the community. Thirumal said that since non-profit organizations such as Habitat are driven by a desire to serve, it is important for each organization to know its role and to direct those seeking assistance to the right organization to help with their specific needs.
Thirumal is proud of the organization’s past, but he is also optimistic for its future with his friend and colleague taking over.
“I think Amy has a very good pulse on the community,” said Thirumal. “I have no doubt she will outperform me, and I am going to support her to do just that.”
As for Raburn, she hopes that as Habitat brings people together to volunteer for others, word will spread quickly.
“I heard somebody say, ‘Serving kills selfishness,’” said Raburn. “When you’re out doing things for other people, other people see that. I think that’s going to be contagious.”
Those interested in learning more can find Habitat for Humanity Milledgeville-Baldwin County on Facebook and Instagram, @HabitatMBC.