Pay it forward: Ericka Smith helps build homes through Habitat

Melissa Masek, senior corporate recruiter at Waterstone Mortgage, and Ericka Smith at the recent Women Build event in Waukesha.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 01:20 pm

Ericka Smith, vice president of marketing for Pewaukee-based Waterstone Mortgage Corp., has seen the transformative effect housing can have on a community.

Smith initially joined Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County’s board of directors in 2011 as a way to meet people and give back to the community, shortly after moving from Rock County to Waukesha County.

Since then, she has helped the organization as it has expanded its building capacity from an average of one house per year to seven houses in 2019.

“We’re employing a larger strategy now because we’ve expanded the staff, we’ve got the support of a larger board, and corporations in Waukesha County are stepping up and helping us achieve our mission,” she said. “It grows on itself. With every new person that gets excited, another person gets excited.”

In her role at Waterstone Mortgage, she has helped spread that enthusiasm by leading a team of volunteers during the organization’s Women Build event, which invites teams of women to help build a home in the community.

This year’s event benefitted single mom Dawn Lhuillier, her daughter Courtney, who is in college and the National Guard, and her 9-year-old daughter Myah, who has severe special needs.

The Women Build event drew 100 volunteers from various area companies over a 10-day period, including Capital Electric Wire & Cable Co., Eaton WAVE, Bradley Corp., QPS Employment Group, American Transmission Co., First Business Bank and Hydrite Chemical Co.

Smith said her team members were eager to lend a hand.

“We would need several more days to handle all the people who want to come back and help,” Smith said.

In addition to volunteer labor, Waterstone Mortgage and its parent company, Waterstone Bank, have donated $20,000 to support Habitat’s build events over the past four years.

As Habitat grows its building capacity, the organization is able to have a significant positive impact on families like the Lhuilliers and their neighborhoods, Smith said.

“When you start small with one house, you can get a lot of people excited about it,” she said. “But when you’re making change to an entire block, you’re changing an entire community; you’re changing families’ lives. Those children that grow up in those houses are affected forever.”

Events like Women Build also help put on display the mission of Habitat, Smith said.

“I think people are often misinformed about what Habitat does, so this gives us an opportunity to talk about what we do,” Smith said. “Not only are we helping the family get into this home, but too, we’re trying to help people get into affordable workforce homes and inform employers from Waukesha County about how they can benefit from affordable workplace housing. We can partner with business partners to do more of this. It’s a win-win for everyone.”  


Ericka Smith

Vice president of marketing

Waterstone Mortgage Corp.

Nonprofit served: Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County

Service: Board member

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.