Hammer & Heart persists in its mission to provide aid and support to low-income
Hammer & Heart in Swannanoa, North Carolina is under the guidance of Director Ben Fortson and is driven by a mission that goes beyond mere home repairs. Initially formed by a group of concerned residents in 2021, the organization sought to assist individuals and families who lacked the financial means to address necessary home repair work.
While Fortson didn’t initially participate in the organization’s founding, he was invited to join the cause and eventually assumed the role of director. Hammer & Heart focuses on helping low-income families and individuals address safety issues within their homes.
“Our aim is to support these individuals,” explained Fortson. “We strive to keep them in their homes, making their living environment safer so they can maintain their desired residence instead of facing homelessness or institutionalization.”
The range of work undertaken by Hammer & Heart varies from roof replacements to constructing ramps for those with mobility challenges. Since its inception, the organization has successfully completed approximately 20 projects, benefitting 14 families. While some may consider this a modest achievement, Fortson expressed pride in the accomplishments, acknowledging the substantial costs associated with each project.
An average project typically costs around $5,000, and the organization must also cover administrative fees. Hammer & Heart currently employs two part-time staff members and hopes to expand its team to include three or four full-time employees in the future.
While Hammer & Heart has received donations from local residents and individuals as far away as Michigan, the organization recognized the importance of securing grants to ensure its sustainability. Fortson emphasized the significant impact of the local population’s generosity while underscoring the necessity of grant funding and foundation support.
In 2023, Hammer & Heart has managed to raise $96,000, with approximately $80,000 originating from grants. These funds directly benefit the Swannanoa Valley community, specifically assisting low-income families with critical home repairs. However, the organization’s commitment extends beyond physical labor. Fortson highlighted the significance of providing emotional support, friendship, and personal investment in the lives of those they assist, believing that such holistic care fosters renewed hope and a sense of belonging.
Witnessing the expressions of gratitude on people’s faces upon completing their home repairs, as well as experiencing the generosity of the community, are among Fortson’s favorite aspects of being involved with Hammer & Heart. The organization’s focus on the individual as a whole, rather than solely addressing their housing needs, is crucial to its approach.
“We don’t want to simply fix their homes and bid them farewell,” Fortson emphasized. “We aim to connect them with additional resources. It’s a significant aspect of what we do—focusing not only on their repair needs but also on their unique personalities.”
To learn more about Hammer & Heart and their impactful work, visit www.hammerandheartwnc.org.