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Building a dream of their own

Fri, Dec 7th, 2012
Posted in All Features

Teri Root with her children (left to right): Teahya, Aalyiah, Tatum, and Haven. Absent is one-year-old Tannen who was ill. Photo by Barb Jeffers

Habitat for Humanity is giving Teri Root and her family the chance to work for their dream of owning their own home. When Teri walked away from her former living situation due to domestic violence, she had no idea what the future would hold for her and her five children.

Now, just over a year later, Teri is helping to build her new home.

The home is being built through Habitat for Humanity Winona-Fillmore Counties. There are many misconceptions about Habitat for Humanity homeowners. Many people believe that the home is given to the applicants who are approved. In fact, the homeowner has to make a down payment and will have a mortgage just as if the money were borrowed from a bank.

The difference with the Habitat for Humanity homes is that the homeowner is required to contribute several hundred hours of work or “sweat equity” into the home. Friends and family can earn “sweat equity” for Teri and her family also, but Teri must work the majority of the hours herself. The children, who are too young to work on the home, can earn their own “sweat equity” by doing a variety of activities as well as earning more for receiving good grades in school. As Teri explained, “It makes them feel like they helped in paying for our home.”

The homeowner then receives an affordable interest-free loan. The house payments are put into a fund to use to build more Habitat for Humanity homes. Habitat for Humanity “seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action,” according to the Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota website (hfhmn.org).

Habitat For Humanity International was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller. Habitat for Humanity Winona-Fillmore Counties was founded in 1994 and finished its first Habitat home in that year as well. By 2009, as Habitat Winona-Fillmore Counties celebrated its 15th anniversary, 40 homes had been completed. In response to devastating floods in southeastern Minnesota, Habitat built its first home in Fillmore county in 2009, according to the Habitat for Humanity Winona - Fillmore counties website (habitatwinona.org).

The Harmony Steering Committee includes Todd Himlie, Chair, Ralph Beastrom, Janet Christianson, Claudia Grehl, Nan Huggenvik, Joy Johnson, Jerry Shuck, Sue Sikkink, Frank Tribon, and Melissa VanderPlas. According to Megan Grebe, Community Outreach Development Coordinator of Habitat for Humanity Winona - Fillmore Counties, stated, “The Harmony community has been very supportive and there has been a core group of retired individuals who have put in a lot of hours on the house so far.”

Other groups who have come to work are F&M Community Bank, Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, The Amish Community, and Lanesboro United Methodist Church, according to Grebe. During the Winter there will be groups volunteering from Fillmore Central School and the Spring Valley Ministerial Association working on the home.

Teri and her children, which include Haven (8), Aalyiah (5), Teahya (4), Tatum (2), and Tannen (1) are looking forward to having the house completed by June 1, 2013. Haven, who prefers to be called “Bubba,” said that having a new home of their own will be “great” and he is “very excited” to move in. The moving in date is growing closer, as Megan Grebe reports that siding will begin any day if the weather cooperates.

Habitat for Humanity has other programs such as ReStore which is a discount building materials store that supports Habitat for Humanity construction. The public can find donated remodeling materials of all kinds as well as other items such as furniture at the area ReStores at lower prices. Perhaps you need to replace one tile in your bathroom and stores no longer carry your particular tile. ReStore may be the place to find that tile and save you from an expensive bathroom remodel. When remodeling a home on a budget, ReStore can be a way to save yourself some money as well.

Habitat for Humanity’s newest program is “A Brush With Kindness,” which helps low income homeowners with exterior home improvements. Megan Grebe explains “A Brush With Kindness” is “a service to help homeowners with minor exterior home repairs, from painting and landscaping to wheel chair ramps to whatever can be accomplished with volunteers.” There are volunteers at the ready waiting for applications to come in from homeowners in need.

For further information on Habitat for Humanity, or to volunteer, contact Megan Grebe at megan@habitatwinona.org or phone (507) 459-4199. The ideal volunteer group size is 6 -12 people over the age of 16.

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