IN the 11 years of its existence, Habitat for Humanity has built an impressive number of homes around the world without any government assistance whatever. But even more impressive, perhaps, 95 cents out of every dollar donated to the organization goes into building houses. People contribute everything - from $5 a year to thousands of dollars. They often arrive at their contributions in highly individual ways.
Some elect to tithe their mortgage payments or rents to Habitat. When home mortgages are paid off, some homeowners continue making the payments as usual - but this time to a Habitat program of their choice.
Still others donate a percentage of their country club fees or give a portion of their vacation expenses, reasoning that if they can afford life's luxuries they can afford to contribute to someone else's basic needs.
On learning that Jimmy Carter was working on a Habitat project in New York City, one man offered to ``pay'' Mr. Carter's ``wages'' ($20 an hour) as a contribution to Habitat.
On learning that the former President had worked a full 52 hours during the week, the same man promptly ``paid'' Habitat time and a half for the final 12 hours.
When a sporting goods company used his picture without permission in one of its advertising campaigns, Mr. Carter told the offenders that he would forget the whole matter if it made a donation of $10,000 to Habitat. The check arrived in the mail the following day.
A Rochester, N.Y., company released an employee for six months to work for Habitat, retaining him on the payroll for the entire period.
Finally, as home loans are repaid, the money is immediately put into new housing, so that the Habitat's building fund is a constantly expanding one.
In recent years, Habitat has adopted a policy that enables it to build a home in a developing country for every one it erects in the United States.
It does this by having US Habitat projects tithe their donated income to an overseas project.
In other words, for every $1,000 that comes into Habitat's coffers, $100 goes overseas. But because the average cost of building a home in a developing country is one-tenth of the cost of a US house, the number of housing units going up is comparable.