When you think of a home, the first word that comes to mind might be “togetherness.” And that word is what drew Jason Barlow to Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona.

“I’ve never worked for another organization that has such a family feel,” says the president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona. “I’ve been in the military. I’ve been in a Catholic hospital before. But at Habitat, everybody truly feels that special purpose. Everybody comes to work every day focused on helping other people. It’s a cool place to work. It really is.”

Since becoming leader of the nonprofit, with a mission to help everyone find a decent, affordable place to call home, Barlow has built a reputation as an innovator who has created one of the most dynamic workplaces cultures in Arizona.

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Az Business: What similarities have you found between the military and working for Habitat for Humanity?

Jason Barlow: They’re so different, but they’re both in the service industry. I did 20 years in the Air Force. We were there to serve people, serve our country. And at Habitat, we are there to serve our community and help families that need affordable housing find more affordable housing solutions. It’s the same feeling. You’re there to help and I think everybody is just totally sold on the Habitat mission. We’re not going to pay upper tier, yet we attract the smartest, the brightest, the coolest people because they know they’re making a difference in the community serving other people.

AB: What attracts those difference-makers to your organization?

JB: One of the differentiators with Habitat is the purpose-driven design we bring together. We bring God’s people together to build homes, communities and hope. We solve problems together, we work together, we build together with volunteers. Last year, there were more than 13,000 volunteer opportunities with Habitat. So it’s that togetherness and that special purpose of serving others that I think really makes it special.

AB: How does it feel when you go into a neighborhood that’s been revitalized thanks to Habitat?

JB: I feel tremendous pride when I go through Habitat neighborhoods. One of the things I love to do is tour people through Habitat neighborhoods because 99% of the time they’ll say, “Okay, where are the Habitat homes?” Things look so nice. Sometimes people have in their mind that Habitat homes are less efficient or not built to last. That’s far from the truth. Our homes look as nice as any other homes on the market.

AB: Do people realize the scope of what you’re doing?

JB: Even though we were rated as one of the top charities in the country for love and commitment, I think people still associate Habitat, with one family and one house. Last year, we built 18 brand new homes and we repaired another 350. So there’s a lot more in the renovation, preservation side of our program now than in new home construction just because of the need.  We’re one of the organizations out there trying to do good and trying to do better and improve people’s lives.