Kelly Longhi, Director of the Volunteer Experience for Habitat for Humanity of Porter County, has always loved the people of Northwest Indiana for their kindness and big hearts. So for the last eight months, she has not only had the privilege of working with so many caring volunteers, but also has shown the community she loves how big their heart is, too.
Born and raised in Thornton, Illinois, Longhi attended Thornwood High School where she played clarinet in the school band. There, she also participated in a school program called the Diversify Occupation Program and attended beauty school throughout her high school career.
“I always liked to work with people,” Longhi said. “So I was a part of this program where I went to classes at the high school in the morning and then to beauty school in the afternoon.”
Long received her license to become a hairdresser from Doree Beauty School and continued to cut hair after high school. But her career changed and led her down a path of incredible opportunities where she was able to continue her love of working with people and of which she was able to get a few great stories.
“I’ve done all different kinds of things,” Longhi said. “I worked at Leo Burnett, which is an ad agency in Chicago, and I worked in the script department. This was before we had computers, so I would type the scripts for the commercials.”
Longhi eventually worked her way up in the department and became a manager and was even able to put her hairstyling skills to the test.
“I met some producers and some people in the art department and I used to sometimes cut their hair at lunch!” Longhi explained. “They would be so busy and wouldn’t have time to get their hair cut, so I would sometimes do that at lunch for them!”
Her fun and interesting career path didn’t stop there. At Leo Burnett, she met someone in the art department who worked with the photographers for the ads and suggested Longhi could be a model for some of their campaigns.
“So I met with this photographer and I ended up modeling for three years with Elite Model Management in Chicago,” Longhi explained. “I even lived in Japan for five months while I was modeling. It was a pretty amazing experience.”
After that, Longhi got married and moved to Valparaiso. For 20 years, she was a stay-at-home mom for her three children. Then, five and a half years ago, she began working for Liberty Bible Church as the Director of Volunteers, continuing her love of meeting and working with new people.
By chance after some time at Liberty Bible Church, Longhi came across an ad for an open position with Habitat hor Humanity and, inspired by the non-profit and hardworking volunteers, knew it was something she couldn’t pass up.
“I love working with people and I was excited about Habitat because I really like non-profit work,” Longhi explained. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to be able to work with people in the Valparaiso Community.”
Since she was hired eight months ago, Longhi has worked hard to cultivate and find really great volunteers throughout Porter County. Whether it’s her reaching out to people in the community or people coming to her because of their desire to work with Habitat for Humanity, Longhi works with volunteers as they help families in need around the community get affordable, sustainable, and safe housing.
But as influential and helpful as Habitat for Humanity has been, Longhi realized there is still room for education of what the non-profit does and has made it part of her mission to further that education.
“Some don’t understand what Habitat really does,” Longhi explained. “They know the name and think that we give away houses, which isn’t the case. Each family we work with, along with the volunteers, partner alongside us to build their own home, learn about home ownership, and then we present them with a sustainable home at a zero percent mortgage. We give them opportunities that they might have never otherwise received.”
When Longhi isn’t working with volunteers around Porter County, she also loves to cook and go out to eat whenever she gets the chance.
“I’m a big time foodie!” Longhi said. “We have so many good restaurants here in Valparaiso. It’s one of our favorite things to do.”
Longhi also loves to spend time with her husband of 31 years, her three children, and her two grandchildren.
“We have children in every category!” Longhi said. “We have a married daughter, a college-aged son, a high school-aged son, and two grandkids. So I love to spend time with them every chance I get.”
Kelly Longhi loves to work and cultivate relationships with people in everything she does. From her time as a hairdresser cutting people’s hair in the lunchroom because their free time was limited, to working with volunteers in Porter County to help families in need with Habitat for Humanity, the Illinois native has shown that her love of kind and big-hearted people is not just something she loves; it’s a reflection of herself.
For more information about Habitat For Humanity, go to http://www.portercountyhabitat.org/