Meet a retired marine who’s retirement lasted four weeks

Pictured above: LowCountry Habitat Executive Director discusses his career path.

By Molly Ingram

Sometimes you run across someone and something that just seem meant-to-be together. Meet Chet Houston, the Executive Director of LowCountry Habitat for Humanity.

Chet, and his lovely wife of 24 years, Marcy, were high school sweethearts back in Kansas where they are from. Chet headed to college on a track scholarship but soon learned college just wasn’t the place for him. But the Marines might be.

So began a career that spanned 26 years and only ended last April when Chet retired. “I couldn’t stay a Marine forever. The time had come for the next phase, the next chapter, the next adventure,” he chuckled. His Marine tenure was filled with duty postings on both coasts of the US, a few in the middle, as well as in multiple areas of Asia. His jobs included being a drill instructor, teaching motorcycle safety, and three combat deployments.

Mixed into the various jobs, Chet got his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Norwich University. But how do you go from the military to LowCountry Habitat? It started with a simple phone call.

“I had only been retired for less than a month when I received a call about the LowCountry Habitat job. I wasn’t ready to start to look for a job just yet. I had a whole, long list of projects to do around the house that I wanted to complete plus, summer was coming. I hadn’t had a summer to enjoy in a really LONG time.” But Chet was convinced to send in his resume. Within days, he got a call from the head of LowCountry’s search committee that they wanted to interview him. They understood that he wasn’t ready to take a new position just yet but he could use that time to start to hone his interview skills for when he was ready.

The bottom line was that the search committee loved him and he fell in love with LowCountry Habitat. So ended his summer vacation.

Chet has found that making the transition from the Marines to working in a non-profit has not been as difficult as he was led to believe it would be. “I am completely impressed with the level of dedication I have witnessed from the staff of LowCountry Habitat. I credit the professionalism of the staff and board of directors for making the transition from military to civilian employee so easy for me.”

The first big challenge for the new Executive Director was to celebrate LowCountry Habitats 25th Anniversary and raise the necessary $60,000 to build an additional house this year. “Typically, we build one house a year. This year we will be building 3+ houses. For us, this is very exciting as the need is far greater than our capacity to build. Two families will have a new home for Thanksgiving.” Pretty cool.

LowCountry Habitat had its anniversary celebration last week at a low key event at the Shed in Port Royal. Supported by fine food and wine establishments, patrons enjoyed a myriad of excellent heavy hors d’oeuvres and drink surrounded by great silent auction items and live bidding on “honey do” service providers. It seems there are quite a lot of households that have an extensive “honey do” list and this was a way to cross some of those chores off the list while supporting a favorite non-profit.

“I don’t have the final numbers yet, but preliminary reports indicate that we are close to raising the goal of $60,000. I don’t think we made it completely, but I think we are going to be close. And we’ll do whatever we have to do to get the balance of the money we need for our anniversary house. Of that, I’m sure.”

LowCountry Habitat had the hiring gods on their side when they convinced Chet to interview. His easy, team building style fits with the mission of this non-profit. His “rock solid” work ethic and his belief that “If it’s a job worth doing, it’s worth doing well” is going to serve both LowCountry Habitat and Beaufort well on all fronts.

Welcome to a great new job, a place where you can use all you have learned from the military to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, where you can raise your three daughters in a caring and giving community and where motorcycle riding is considered almost mandatory. However, you might be on your own rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs. Just sayin’…

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