JACKSON TWP.  The campus pastor at RiverTree Church on Portage Street in Jackson Township Scott Nelson asked members during their Christmas Eve services to give donations to help Habitat for Humanity.

The church set a goal to raise $100,000.

Members exceeded the goal and gave $147,000 to help Habitat achieve its mission. According to www.habitateco.org, the organization works to help families and individuals obtain a "safe, decent, and affordable home" that offers them the opportunity to "take of themselves and build their own futures."

Nelson said the donations came from the more than 4,400 members across six different Christmas Eve services on Dec. 23 and 24.

"We do an annual Christmas Eve collection and while we have worked with Habitat in the past, this is the first time we are donating the Christmas Eve collections to Habitat for Humanity," Nelson said. "Personally, I’m passionate about providing affordable housing to families and individuals. I was blessed to be able to purchase my own home right out of college. It was a condominium just outside of Chicago. I’m a big believer in how owning a home helps provide financial stability."

Nelson said he also owned a small company outside of Chicago where the focus was to help working poor families afford to purchase their own home. That experience also contributed greatly to his passion for providing affordable homes to those in need.

Nelson said RiverTree’s Vision Leader Jason Lantz introduced him to the director of Habitat and he was impressed by the group and the operations of the organization.

"When Jason asked us to decide who to donate our Christmas Eve offerings to, I suggested Habitat for several reasons. First, because of my own passion for meeting affordable housing needs, and second is how well Habitat works to achieve its mission and because of the private donor who would match our donation," Nelson said.

The money will get used in several ways. RiverTree will donate $50,000 to help build two houses for two single mothers, one in Massillon and one in Canton. A private donor to Habitat will match that amount making a total of $100,000 available to build the two homes.

The remaining $97,000 will remain in-house to help generate matching funding for future houses. Nelson said the church has 40 GoCommunity groups that take on special projects throughout the year. The groups are tasked with becoming a blessing to their neighborhoods and other groups such as cancer survivors.

Nelson said a number of the GoCommunity groups will be raising additional funds for Habitat through March. The church will then match the amount each group raises from the remaining monies raised over the Christmas holiday.

The monies each group raises will then be matched by a private donor at Habitat. Nelson said this allows the money to be quadrupled over the next few months. There are other ways church members will be helping Habitat.

"There are four types of projects going on at Habitat and many of our members have volunteered their time to participate in three of the four projects," Nelson said.

Habitat is working on a special project to improve an entire neighborhood in Canton that Nelson said could include improving up to 400 homes. The four special project areas include: exterior renovations such as painting and repairing the outside of homes, critical home improvement which includes plumbing or electrical repairs, doing a complete remodel of the home or doing a complete rebuild.

"Our members will be raising money and donating their time to help in all but one project area, the critical repair which requires professional plumbers and electricians. Three of our groups will be working to raise enough money to help do complete rebuilds," Nelson said. "This is a yearlong project for our members. We’re excited to be involved with Habitat. We like to think in addition to helping build a home for a family that we are also helping them to build a better future that will be a generational foundation for years to come."