17 years of building hope at Habitat Tucson
Nancy Rude remembers when all of the Habitat Tucson neighborhoods were just blank dirt.
Remembers how empty lots transformed into hundreds of homes and thriving neighborhoods.
Remembers the look on families’ faces as they watched volunteers – people who didn’t even know them – come to build the walls of their future home.
When Donor Relations Manager Nancy Rude first joined the Habitat team 17 years ago, it was a much smaller operation. Just a handful of people in the office and only one paid construction worker. What started out very Mom-and-Pop developed into a thriving community of passionate people – all devoted to the mission that everyone deserves a decent place to live, and everyone can do something to help make that possible for another family.
“That’s all the special things—the workers, the homeowners, the volunteers, the donors—and the mission is on top. That’s what we always come back to,” she says. “That’s why we’re here.”
And something extraordinary about Nancy’s experiences is how many memories she has of astounding generosity from donors and volunteers.
"The mission is on top. That’s what we always come back to. That’s why we’re here.”
She recalls an office volunteer named Pat, a retired school teacher, who loved helping everybody who walked in the office doors. “When she died,” Nancy said, “we found out she had left $90,000 to Habitat and other organizations. Talk about leaving a legacy! I thought – wow. You just never know what a legacy is going to bring.”
Another time, a homeowner’s daughter asked to help with thank-a-thon phone calls. “She was like 12, and she sat with a board member and made calls. And she did the talking! She would say, ‘I live in a Habitat house and my mom works at TMC. We’re just thanking you for your support!’”
Nancy has made a tremendous impact on Habitat as well. She’s known for her kindness, her flexibility and organization, and her ability to see the best in people.
As the Donors Relations Manager, Nancy was always cultivating relationships with donors, who make Habitat neighborhoods a reality.
Nancy has a passion for pairing donors with their interests and seeing the difference each gift makes in the lives of families all across Southern Arizona. When she first started working at Habitat Tucson, there were about 6,000 records of donors. And now, 16 years later, there are almost 70,000.
“When I open the mail, and someone sends a twenty dollar check, and they write on a little sticky, ‘I sure wish I could do more, but this is what I can do right now’—oh my gosh, it breaks my heart!” says Nancy. “There’s no barrier for entry – no matter what you want to do or how much you want to give, you can do it.”
Nancy and her husband are Habitat legacy donors themselves, and have included Habitat Tucson in their will. They believe in the power of homeownership, how a home is the foundation for a thriving life.
“A house is just so stabilizing, and comforting, and safe, for a family—a family of two or ten or how-every-many you have,” she says. “I think everything comes from it—school is better if you’ve got a good home, your relationships, your church, your neighborhood. And we just don’t give it away. The homeowners—they are part of this.”
Nancy has a special perspective as a donor – because as the Donor Relations Manager, she knows exactly how donations are used behind the scenes.
“We are such good stewards of donors’ money,” Nancy says. “And I am so conscious of that – if people want to help the aging in place, we put money there. If they want this to go to plumbing supplies, I tell the accounting people and we make it happen. My husband and I decided to include Habitat in our will because we know Habitat is going to use our money wisely.”
Nancy Rude was always a constant at Habitat – always made sure things were running smoothly behind the scenes. “I liked that. I liked being under the radar,” she says, smiling. Now, as she enters retirement, she’s looking forward to traveling the world and find ways to stay involved in her community as a volunteer.
“We call this our third chapter in life. The first chapter is childhood and school. The second is family and work. And the third – we think! – is retirement but with health. So the third chapter I think can be really exciting!”
Thank you, Nancy, for your lasting legacy!