CU Personality // Heather Lafferty
Heather Lafferty is a superwoman. As a CEO and Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver and CU Denver alum, Lafferty has helped build more than 100 homes during her active years in the organization. When talking to the CU Denver Sentry about her role as CEO, she said she’s simply been lucky.
Lafferty started volunteering for the organization in college, eventually getting involved professionally in 1999. After her undergrad, Lafferty left Habitat for Humanity to join the workforce while attending night school at CU Denver, pursuing a master’s in Business Administration.
“It’s an honor to work with an organization like Habitat for Humanity, which does great work in the community and allows me to passionately pursue what I believe in,” Lafferty said.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, Lafferty was first exposed to Habitat for Humanity during Church, when a Cambodian girl her age talked about the new home Habitat for Humanity had built for her family. Lafferty was stunned by all the help and relief that the organization had given to the woman and to others.
“It was my first exposure to the fact that there were kids my age who didn’t have steady housing,” Lafferty said. “It was my first moment of inspiration, and I didn’t realize it would lead me to where I am today. It was a great way for me to really learn, and to put what I was learning in the classroom into action. If I had to stop working, it would’ve put me in debt and far behind schedule to complete my degree.”
After taking a break, Lafferty returned to Habitat for Humanity in 2008 as CEO, but her transition wasn’t all too easy.
“The economy was crashing, which means philanthropy was drying up,” Lafferty said. “All of the aspects of the organization were being challenged because of what was happening around us. I think back to that time often because even after that we remain a strong organization, and we’re continuing to find innovative ways to serve more families.”
The organization has over 15,000 volunteers who help to house an average 120 families per year. Every new home requires 12 weeks to build and at least 400 volunteers.
Lafferty believes Habitat for Humanity is doing more than just providing shelter to those in need. “The key to Habitat is that we’re building homes, but what we’re actually building is the opportunity for a much brighter future,” Lafferty said. “A moment that encapsulates that is when a home is finished and all the volunteers and family come together and we stand on the front porch of the new home and celebrate.”
Lafferty’s favorite part of working for Habitat for Humanity is when every family cuts the ribbon, which she believes is a symbol to them opening a door to much greater things in life.