ATLANTA, Ga. - Larry Gluth, a native of New Ulm, has a passion for helping people and communities.
The son of Dale and the late Alice Gluth, Larry graduated from New Ulm High School in 1977.
"As you reflect on growing up in a community like New Ulm ... you learn so much," said Gluth, "New Ulm is my home."
Larry Gluth speaks at the Habitat on the Hill event in Washington D.C.
He attended St. Cloud State University for a couple of years then he transferred to the University of Utah where he graduated with a degree in education.
In 2001, while Gluth was living in Seattle, Wash. he was driving home from work one day when he saw a sign advertising a "20 house blitz build" organized through the non-profit organization Habitat for Humanity.
The mission statement of Habitat for Humanity is to work in partnership with God and people everywhere, from all walks of life, to develop communities with people in need by building and renovating houses so that there are decent houses in decent communities in which every person can experience God's love and can live and grow into all that God intends.
Gluth's experience with Habitat for Humanity began as a simple commitment for a few weeks. He took a short vacation from his work as a top executive at Starbucks and offered his help with the blitz build housing project.
"It was a fabulous experience," said Gluth, "I was really enthralled with Habitat for Humanity."
He got involved locally as a board member for the organization.
Then, Hurricane Katrina struck the southern coast of the United States causing horrible devastation to the people who lived there.
"I think like a lot of people we kept seeing images ... and people wanted to help out," said Gluth, "Like thousands of people we sent a check."
But then his wife asked him what Habitat for Humanity's response would be to Hurricane Katrina?
Gluth took a flight down to New Orleans six weeks following the storm. He saw the devastation and wanted to take a role in rebuilding and revitalizing the area. He arranged to take an open-ended sabbatical from his job at Starbucks to spend a year in the Gulf Coast.
He worked as a volunteer for one year with Habitat for Humanity serving as the vice president for development with "Operation Home Delivery."
During this time, he would spend a couple of weeks with his family in Seattle on a regular basis and then he would travel back to work in the Gulf area.
His young son Connor did not understand at first all of the work Gluth was doing down there.
Connor asked him one time, "Gee Dad, aren't you done with that house you've been building down in the Gulf?"
Actually, Gluth and the affiliates he was working with were building hundreds of homes.
"My work was primarily working with 22 affiliates ... to help them grow their operational capacity and structure to serve more families," said Gluth.
Before Hurricane Katrina hit, every year the affiliates would build about 50 houses, but after Katrina, they could build about 50 homes a month.
Gluth said he also worked with local officials because some areas had no Habitat for Humanity presence at all.
In the five years since Hurricane Katrina, these 22 affiliates have built 2,200 homes, specifically with the money raised through Operation Home Delivery.
"There was really an outpouring of generosity there," said Gluth.
The homeowners who are selected to get a home through Habitat for Humanity have a zero percent home mortgage.
There are three main criteria to be selected as a homeowner with Habitat for Humanity: 1) need (economic need), 2) willingness to partner with Habitat for Humanity through 300-500 hours of sweat equity either on their own home or a neighbor's home. 3) Ability to pay back the mortgage.
"It's really very cool to see the families that are being served on Habitat for Humanity sites," said Gluth, "When you see the impact that a new home has on the family, it's a game-changer. We see children who have better health outcomes and better educational outcomes."
Gluth went on to say, "When you have the opportunity to work with the partner family you see people are the same in a lot of ways ... they have the same aspirations, the same goals and dreams for their children."
Gluth and his family - wife Gailynn and Connor, 10, now live in Dunwoody, Ga. which is a suburb of Atlanta. He serves as the senior vice president for U.S. and Canada at Habitat for Humanity International.
"We're enjoying Atlanta now," said Gluth.
He makes it back to see his family and friends a couple of times a year. He said he came back last April and took in a Twins baseball game with his father.
"I love the new stadium," said Gluth.
This was a special year for Gluth because he received recognition at the University of Utah's Alumni Association Founder's Day two-day celebration. Gluth was one of four people who were honored as distinguished alumni. A special banquet was held in their honor.
Gluth serves as a vice chair of the National Advisory Council at the University of Utah. He also remains a season ticket holder for the university's football games. He makes it back to Utah to watch as many games as he can.
"I was very blessed to have had a successful career," said Gluth, "It really provided the opportunity and the impetus to give back. I just remember that spirit of volunteerism in New Ulm, particularly my own parents and people I was surrounded with - it made me want to give back, too. It's really a blessing to be able to give back now."