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Mr. Habitat contestants raise record amount for nonprofit

Josh Aitken was crowned Mr. Habitat 2020, bringing in nearly $15,000
Dana Jelinek and 2019 Mr. Habitat winner, Travis Powell, present Josh Aitken with the honor of Mr. Habitat 2020. The crowning was held at Peace Lutheran Church on September 15.
Dana Jelinek and 2019 Mr. Habitat winner, Travis Powell, present Josh Aitken with the honor of Mr. Habitat 2020. The crowning was held at Peace Lutheran Church on September 15.(KSNB)
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 8:02 AM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Grand Island Area Habitat for Humanity not only crowned a new Mr. Habitat for 2020, but they also received a record amount of money thanks to the competition.

2020 marked the 10th year for the competition, which put five men against each other to raise money for the GI Area Habitat for Humanity.

This year hasn’t been an easy one for fundraising for nonprofits, but the five men stepped up to the challenge.

Each year during the competition, contestants would hold dozens of in-person events and dine to donate nights leading up to the the pageant. In the age of COVID-19, competitors had to get a little more creative.

For the last two and a half months, Josh Aitken, Grady Erickson, Travis Mittan, Ryan O’Neill, and Gene Ulmer competed to see who could raise the most money. Little did they know when they began, that they would break the event’s record for earnings, bringing in over $58,000 from their efforts.

Aitken, who ended up being crowned the winner, said "COVID-19 had restrictions put in place and we didn’t know how fundraising would go. It’s been an eye-opening and humbling experience”.

He, along with the other candidates each expressed their gratitude, surprise, and humility at the results.

Ulmer shared “It was a fantastic experience and an amazing journey. Our families, friends, and sponsors came through for us and I am proud of all of these men who competed in a year of uncertainty”.

In spite of everything, Aitken raised nearly $15,000 of the group’s $58,000 total, putting him in the lead on the last day of the competition and earned him the crown. Ulmer, who had been in the lead, was edged out by less than $600.

The real winner is the nonprofit helping people have the opportunity for safe, affordable housing. Soon the organization will complete and sell its 104th house.

Habitat board member LeAnne Doose said of the Mr. Habitat contestants, “They supported Grand Island Area Habitat for Humanity, and they supported one another. This happened long before they took the stage at the Mr. Habitat pageant - it’s been happening for months.”

She added, “I saw friendships, laughter, and even emotions as they pondered the difference made through their efforts”.

Aitken, who has volunteered on the construction sites throughout the competition said, “The Grand Island Area Habitat for Humanity holds a very special place in my heart, and I do not take the opportunity to serve within the 2020 Mr. Habitat campaign lightly. This is home, and having the chance to help future homeowners thrive within this city is beyond exciting.”

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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