CAIRO — Habitat for Humanity may be returning to Cairo after a years-long hiatus.

Thomasville-Thomas County Habitat CEO Richard Massa met with Cairo Mayor Howard Thrower and other local leaders to gauge if they would be interested in restarting a Habitat program in Cairo.

"They have a very aggressive program and he wants to establish a Southwest Georgia Habitat to have some centralized planning and maximize use of talent," Thrower said.

Massa told Thrower he would "take care of all the other steps" in restarting the program in the area if the council were to voice their support for the idea, the mayor said.

Council members expressed interest in the idea, citing the work Habitat did in the area in the past. 

Massa said he expects Habitat will continue to meet with local officials over the course of the next 30 to 60 days to identify areas of need and target "opportunity zones" where lots can begin to be converted into homes.

The city council may also be asked to draft a letter formally requesting Habitat's assistance in the community

Cairo has a "tremendous need" for a program like Habitat, Massa said.

"Driving up and down the town, I could just see they've really had their struggles, without a doubt," he said, "but within those struggles, I do believe there's opportunity." 

Massa, who took over the Thomasville Habitat affiliate eight months ago, was unsure exactly when Habitat departed Cairo, but estimated it was "at least" three years ago.

The nonprofit once had numerous affiliates in the region stretching along south Georgia to the Alabama border, but that presence has long since waned, Massa said. Outside of Thomasville, Habitat's only other offices in the region are in Albany and Valdosta.

The newly-invigorated Thomasville office is hoping to reestablish that presence in a big way.

"There's definitely a need in the southwest region of Georgia for Habitat to be revived," Massa said.

Though the potential expansion into Cairo is only in what Massa refers to as the "exploratory stage," the self-described competitor has big ideas for what the organization can accomplish in the community.

"I want us to do 200 units a year," he said.

Those homes are just the most visible aspect of what Habitat can accomplish, Massa said. Projects require manpower, which means jobs, and property taxes are paid to the city after the homes are constructed.

"It begins to feed itself for the city," Massa said.

Habitat's mission goes far beyond just building homes, Massa said. The organization not only serves as a builder, but also as a banker, a mortgage service company, a retail organization and a nonprofit.

"We're here to help," Massa said. "Habitat is a great economic driver that can be used in counties and cities to really tackle some needs on a housing front, on a second need by creating jobs, it creates a tax base, it also works with families."

Some families with Habitat homes have 0% mortgages, creating a disposable income that Massa said can become generational wealth with the health of Habitat-backed financial literacy education. 

Habitat doesn't claim to be the sole solution for housing problems, Massa said.

"We just look to be a piece of the puzzle," he said.

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