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Outlook 2020: 'You are capable! No matter what your circumstances,' Habitat chief says

Ann Felton Gilliland
Ann Felton Gilliland

Ann Felton Gilliland, 76, CEO and chairman of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, has led the organization for 30 years.

Community impact: "Since taking the reins of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity (COHFH), I have been blessed to lead a team that has grown significantly over the years. We celebrate the dedication of our 1,000th home on March 9. Through our program we’ve provided safe, stable and, above all, affordable housing to hundreds of families over the years — families who otherwise would never have been able to achieve their dream of home ownership.

"As homeowners, our Habitat families also have a very positive impact on the community. They work hard, pay property taxes, and contribute to the local economy. The stability and affordability of our housing program has allowed many of them to further their education, obtain better jobs, open a business and see their children flourish in school and in life.

"In addition to new construction, more than 500 limited-income families have been able to comfortably and safely remain in their homes thanks to our Critical Home Repair (CHR) program. This program assists limited-income homeowners with accessibility, weatherization, painting, and other badly needed repairs. Often these repairs make the difference in whether an individual is able to remain in their home. We frequently partner with (Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.) and with Oklahoma City’s inspectors to determine those with the greatest need. The CHR program is funded by the proceeds from our two ReStores.

"Our program also has a huge impact on the community through our year-round work with volunteers. Volunteering on a Habitat home provides an opportunity for companies, organizations and individuals to utilize their heads, hearts and hands to help others. We are very proud that we provide an enriching and meaningful experience to the more than 7,000 volunteers we work with each year.

"In addition to Habitat, my volunteer work over the years has also allowed me to have a personal impact by serving as a fundraiser, board member and/or committee leader for many arts and other organizations across the Oklahoma City metro. I served as chairman of the Oklahoma City Art Museum. I am active in Oklahoma City and statewide political campaigns for a variety of candidates and served as a Stephen Minister member at All Souls’ Episcopal Church.

Life philosophy: "My life’s philosophy really relates back to the biblical principle of 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,' as is written in Luke and Matthew. Although this may seem like an antiquated idea in our current social climate, I believe it is even more relevant today. Following the “golden rule,” in my view, encompasses more than just how we relate to individuals. It includes how we choose to support the communities in which we live. To me, though, it seems the most important thing to remember about this philosophy is that it is not a promise of reciprocity but rather a call to action."

What have you learned in your life that you'd want to share with the next generation of women? "You are capable! No matter what your circumstances, you are capable of making a difference in your own life and the lives of others. It does not require any special talents, abundant resources, or grand plans. What it does require is a willingness to make an effort and to be mindful not of what you have to give up, but what you, and those around you, have to gain by your efforts."

Advice to young women: "Never pass up an opportunity to educate yourself. I am speaking not only about a formal education, but also about learning through your own volition by reading, trying new things, and listening to others. We have so many resources at our disposal today, thanks to technology, that it’s easy to forget we have other avenues of learning available as well, not only for ourselves, but about ourselves. This is a valuable skill in our rapidly changing world, and one that can make the difference in a successful career and, more importantly, a successful life."

Richard Mize

Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked... Read more ›

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