She may be new at Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity—where she’s been CEO less than a year—but Mary Kay McDaniel Huss ’79 is a seasoned veteran in the cause of affordable housing.

She took up the banner 30 years ago, when her church asked her to head an interdenominational effort among the faith community to increase affordable housing.

“I was a young stay-at-home mother, and they figured I wasn’t doing anything,” she said, displaying her trademark dry wit.

Huss learned about the housing crisis through her church, St. Paul’s Episcopal in Richmond. “I got involved with our homeless ministries. I soon learned that housing is a fundamental problem and is the foundation to every success in life, intersecting with health, education and family stability,” she said.

Next came eight years at Richmond’s Better Housing Coalition, a regional leader in affordable housing development and management, and then five years at Rebuilding Together Richmond, a nonprofit organization whose goal is preserving affordable home ownership and revitalizing neighborhoods.

The CEO position at Habitat was a logical next step.

She’s been there since May 2019, leading a staff of 48 who, together with volunteers, develop 15 homes a year. They also operate a critical home-repair program and two ReStores, retail operations that sell donated building supplies and furniture.

"I'm reminded at each home dedication how important and transforming our work is to the families we partner with,” she said. “When we gather with the family, sponsors and volunteers to dedicate the home, that dream of home ownership becomes a reality. To be able to share that moment with our families is the best part of my job.”

While Huss loved her sorority experience at Longwood, she concedes she was never what you’d call a gung-ho alumna, so naturally she was puzzled when she was asked to join Longwood’s Alumni Board. 

“I was candid about it, but they said they wanted people like me,” she said. “The experience changed my mind. Longwood is a different place, energized and diverse. It’s a place I feel good about.”

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