Hammer & Heart recognized by federal government as official nonprofit organization

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Hammer & Heart craftsmen work to repair a house.

Local organization Hammer & Heart has achieved the status of a federal 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

"The nonprofit status gives us a level of legitimacy that people like to see," said Ben Fortson, the chair of the Hammer & Heart board.

Hammer & Heart provides home repairs and maintenance for low-income residents of the Swannanoa Valley. Many of the nonprofit's clients, whose houses are often their  main investments, cannot afford repairs due to economic status, disabilities or old age.

Having the nonprofit status adds security for donors, according to Fortson. Donations will now be tax deductible, allowing larger donors and trusts to contribute funding safely.

"It's particularly helpful with large donors, foundations, grants," Fortson said. "They want to know that you're tax deductible because they're typically giving larger sums."

From leaky roofing to water damage, electrical issues, heating and accessibility, a typical home repair costs in the range of $5,000 to $10,000, according to the nonprofit.

The organization has the financial goal of raising $80,000 to meet the needs of eight to 10 local households this year. 

Prior to being a 501(c)(3), Hammer & Heart was already considered a nonprofit by the federal government, though not officially.

The nonprofit status also comes with official registration with the federal government, letting donors know the organization has regular audits and that funding goes to its intended purpose. 

"There's some level of accountability that goes with that nonprofit status as well that gives us some legitimacy as an organization," Fortson said.

Homeowners must apply for aid from the nonprofit, meeting certain criteria to be considered eligible. Fortson said Hammer & Heart currently has about four applications in process. 

Though Hammer & Heart doesn't accept every application it receives, staff makes sure to point rejected applicants in the right direction.

For instance, Fortson said a recent applicant didn't meet the economic criteria to be eligible. Staff found money in the applicant's savings and income to afford repairs and connected the person with a contractor. 

"We can give them recommendations based on the people we work with," Fortson said.

Before shot of a porch in need of repair prior to work done by Hammer & Heart.

Depending on the situation, Hammer & Heart hires a contractor, craftsman or utilizes volunteer work to complete a project. For smaller jobs, volunteer crews can get the work done with the organization paying for materials. 

"If it's anything that requires a permit or skilled craftsman, we will hire a contractor to do that," Fortson said. "If it's anything a little less intense like painting, cleanup or building a ramp, we can go with volunteers."

After shot of completed work done by Hammer & Heart to repair a house.

Located in Swannanoa, a relatively small community, Hammer & Heart faces the challenge of routinely petitioning the same donors for funding. The organization plans to get creative, holding annual fundraisers and applying for grants that can bring the community together. 

"You don't want to pester people but you want people to know there's some big needs out here," Fortson said. 

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.