Habitat’s Lee to retire this year

Joining a wave of nonprofit executive leadership transitions, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati said its longtime president and chief executive officer will retire later this year.

Ed Lee joined the organization as executive director in 2010 following a 29-year career at Procter & Gamble.

Ed Lee

During his tenure, Cincinnati’s Habitat has grown in its service to local families, building an organizational infrastructure that is more innovative and sustainable. The progress that Habitat has made under Lee’s leadership contributed to billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s decision to choose Greater Cincinnati as one of the Habitat affiliates to benefit from her recent $436 million donation to the global Habitat organization. (Cincinnati received $7.5 million.)

Lee led the merger of Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity with TriState Habitat for Humanity to create one of the country’s largest Habitat affiliates, serving nine counties in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Prior to being chosen to lead the organization, Lee began volunteering with Habitat in 2001, first as a build site volunteer, then chair of Habitat’s Eastside Coalition and then finally as a member of the board of directors.

Since Lee took the helm, more than 250 local families have closed on their first home in partnership with Habitat. To Lee, Habitat is all about the families the organization serves, which accounts for the thousands of people the organization has impacted during his tenure. He takes every opportunity to make sure that the families are recognized for the hard work and financial investment that they put in to become first-time homebuyers.

“Habitat is not a giveaway program,” he said. “It is a true partnership in helping more families achieve self-sufficiency.”

He has also worked to raise awareness of Habitat’s roots in racial equity and its role in increasing homeownership opportunities for people of color.

Lee made crucial innovations in the three primary sources of growth for the organization — charitable donations, loan repayments and ReStore revenue — which leaves a legacy of long-term stability for the organization.

Results include:

  • expanding the ReStore social enterprise from one to five stores regionally;
  • growing philanthropic support, including a multiyear corporate campaign and a modernized fundraising infrastructure; and
  • improving the availability of mortgage revenue through partnership with local banks.

He has also committed to collaborative partnerships in communities where Habitat builds, including:

  • working with Community Learning Center Institute and Community Matters to raise the level of homeownership in Lower Price Hill;
  • creating new home construction in Lincoln Heights in partnership with the mayor and Hamilton County Community Development; and
  • preserving historic buildings while creating homeownership opportunities in the West End with Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses, The Port and the city of Cincinnati.

HFHGC has been recognized as a Top Workplace by the Cincinnati Enquirer, in the top 25 largest homebuilders in the region by Cincinnati Business Courier and as a Top 45 Habitat affiliate nationwide. Lee received a Second Act Award from the Business Courier and has served in multiple leadership positions with Habitat for Humanity International, including the U.S. Council, which sets policy for national affiliates.

“I am thankful to Ed for his leadership in Cincinnati and nationally; he has made a positive and truly meaningful impact on our mission,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “I’m particularly grateful for his leadership in the Habitat affiliate community. Ed’s wisdom and grace have been essential to the progress of our collaborative work to serve more families, and his leadership by example has helped shape innovative new ways for Habitat to address the affordable housing crisis.”

HFHGC’s board will conduct a search for Lee’s successor, supported by Gilman Partners of Cincinnati. Executive search firms have been busy this year, filling the top roles at Leadership Council for Nonprofits, Bethany House, Holly Hill, Leadership Cincinnati, Flywheel, Cincinnati Works, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Breakthrough Cincinnati, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and many more.

“We are incredibly grateful for the leadership and service Ed has given to Habitat,” said Amanda Hill, Habitat’s board chair. “He has left his fingerprint on the organization, including an exciting long-range vision, an award-winning organization, and creating affordable housing for hundreds of families in the Greater Cincinnati area.”

The organization has recently renewed its strategic plan with a goal to serve one family for every day of the year, Hill said.

Since 1986, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati has built, renovated, or repaired more than 680 homes throughout a nine-county region including Hamilton, Butler, Clermont, and Warren counties in Ohio; Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties in Kentucky; and Dearborn and Ohio counties in Indiana. It has also contributed to building more than 1,000 homes globally in Cambodia, El Salvador, Kenya, and Nepal.

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