“A house is to a family what soil is to a plant,” Millard Fuller once said. “A plant needs to be rooted. A family is like that. If a family is not rooted, it will not flourish. But once a family is well-rooted, all kinds of wonderful things will begin to happen.”

This year, Habitat for Humanity celebrates 40 years of wonderful things happening for families in your community and around the world. Decent shelter is something we all need to thrive, and the years have shown us again and again what a strong foundation a Habitat house can be for a family.

Like a seedling, the idea that became Habitat for Humanity first grew from the fertile soil of Koinonia Farm, a community farm outside of Americus, Georgia, founded by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan.

It was on the farm that Jordan and Millard and Linda Fuller developed the concept of “partnership housing.” The concept centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build decent, affordable houses. Sound familiar?

Beau and Emma were the owners of the first home built by Koinonia’s Partnership Housing Program. They and their five children moved into the home in 1969, and they paid off their mortgage in 1989, six months ahead of schedule. The concrete-block home with a modern kitchen, indoor bathroom and heating system replaced the family’s previous dwelling: an unpainted, uninsulated shack that had no plumbing.

The times have changed, the build site locations have grown in number, but the very real change that Beau and Emma’s family experienced is shared by families today who partner with Habitat to build or improve a place they can call home.

We now work in 1,400 communities across the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. In 2015, Marcy was just one Habitat homeowner who made her final mortgage payment. The Habitat home she helped build is “an accomplishment that gives me chills,” she says. Empowered by her partnership with us, she has raised two children in her home, children who know healthier, more stable lives than they would have before.

“The reality,” writes Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford, “is that if children don’t live in decent homes, the odds of their staying healthy plummet. If they’re not healthy, they don’t get educated; and if they don’t get an education, they don’t get decent jobs, meaning they won’t be able to care for their families or break out of the stranglehold of poverty.”

That’s what Habitat helps change. Through shelter, we empower. Join us this year as we celebrate every Beau and Emma, every Marcy, every family that we’ve encountered in our four decades of building. Every single one deserves the opportunity for a better future that your support of Habitat makes available to them.