The construction site
for new homes in
Janice Jensen at the
Women of Influence
2017 awards; A
South Bay family
gathers at their
newly finished home.
December 2018/January 2019 53
found that the organization’s investment
of $175 million had created about $900
million in economic activity, in addition
to jobs, wages and local and state revenue.
“For every $1 invested in Habitat, we’ve
turned it into $20,” Jensen notes, pointing
to the current overall economic impact.
But for Jensen, it’s not just about the
numbers. It’s about the families and the
personal stories that mean so much more.
She describes one family from San Jose with
three young girls that, before Habitat, had to
move frequently into unsuitable living situations.
When they had an opportunity to
obtain a Habitat home, the family worked
hard to make it happen. Jensen says one of
the children turned out to be the family’s
best spokesperson in sharing the impact
of the move.
“She was 7 years old when they got into
the home in San Jose, and she talked about
what it was like to have her own bedroom,
and to have a home where she could have
birthday parties and have friends over,”
Jensen says. “It never dawned on me that
she would be ashamed that they didn’t have
any place to have friends over. They also
didn’t have a place or light to study because
they had been living in a garage.”
With the stability and security the home
gave her, the child grew up healthy and
happy, was able to get a good education and
even became a Rhodes Scholar. Her sisters
are also very well educated and successful.
“The cycle has completely been broken
for those sisters and they’ve gone on to do
amazing things,” Jensen says. She notes that
the parents are still living in the Habitat
home and haven’t progressed much incomewise,
but she suspects the daughters will be
taking care of them.
“That type of story is repeated over and
over again. It doesn’t matter what race or
ethnicity that family is, or the gender of the
head of household; the story is the same,”
When she’s not helping to put roofs over
the heads of East Bay and Silicon Valley
families, the busy CEO likes to swim, hike
and shop for footwear.
“I have a serious shoe addiction,” she
Jensen also enjoys hanging out with her
family. She is very close to her four nephews
and nieces and three goddaughters, ranging
in age between 24 and 32 years. “I have
seven kids. While I did not give birth to any
of them, they are my babies nonetheless,”
she says. “I am so proud of them. They are
the most amazing people I know and they
inspire me to be a better person.”
Jensen adds that her work has influenced
these kids, who are all advocates for affordable
housing in their states. Some of
them have become donors, and several
As Jensen looks back on her journey
up until now, she feels she’s landed in the
“I would have been a terrible widget
maker,” she says. “People are my product. At
Habitat, I get to see people on a long journey,
and watch their lives change radically
once they have a stable place to call home.
I can’t look a family in the eyes and not be
inspired by what they’re going through.”
In January, Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley
will host a dedication ceremony for the newly
constructed homes in its Fremont development.
They’ll hand over the house keys to the
new homeowners, with speeches from local
dignitaries and other celebratory activities.
The public is invited to attend. For more
information on this event, and on volunteering
and donating for the holidays and beyond,
see the Habitat EBSV website, https://www.