Thanks to the dedicated work of the Habitat for Humanity Fayette County affiliate, a local family will be moving into a newly-constructed home and the community is invited to join in the celebration.
A family of three will take up residence at 621 E. Paint St. in Washington Court House. To commemorate the occasion, a groundbreaking ceremony and open house will be held this Sunday from 2-4 p.m.
“We build homes in Fayette County and this is our 18th home we’ve built,” said Jim Downing, a board member with the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. “We have 16 here in Court House and two in Bloomingburg.”
The idea that became Habitat for Humanity first grew from the fertile soil of Koinonia Farm, a community farm outside of Americus, Georgia, founded by farmer and biblical scholar, Clarence Jordan, according to the Habitat website. On the farm, Jordan and Habitat’s eventual founders, Millard and Linda Fuller, developed the concept of “partnership housing.” The concept centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build decent, affordable houses.
The houses would be built at no profit, according to the website. New homeowners’ house payments would be combined with no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fundraising to create “The Fund for Humanity,” which would then be used to build more homes.
In 1973, the Fullers decided to take the Fund for Humanity concept to Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, the website says. After three years of hard work to launch a successful house building program there, the Fullers then returned to the U.S. and called together a group of supporters to discuss the future of their dream: Habitat for Humanity International, founded in 1976.
In Fayette County, this dream became reality approximately 25 years ago when the local Habitat affiliate was founded by the Fayette County Ministerial Association.
“The goal has been to provide affordable, decent housing,” said Downing. “Our mission in Fayette County is to eliminate sub-standard housing one house at at time.”
To qualify for a Habitat home, individuals must be active participants in building a better home and future for themselves and their families. Every Habitat home is an investment.
“We have a selection committee that goes through the applications,” said Downing. “They narrow it down to two or three and then they come to the board with a recommendation, and it’s decided who gets the house. The board reviews the applications and decides on the family. Sometimes, the process can take awhile. The family selection committee also has a team that goes out and interviews the applicants to determine if they are living in substandard housing. Substandard can mean overcrowded, a home in disrepair and other factors.”
Prospective Habitat homeowners must demonstrate a need for safe, affordable housing. Once selected, Habitat homeowners must partner with the organization throughout the process. This partnership includes performing “sweat equity,” or helping to build their own home or the homes of others in the home ownership program. Sweat equity can also include taking home ownership classes or performing volunteer work in a Habitat ReStore, according to the website. In Fayette County, each family has to put in 300 hours of sweat equity.
Home owners must also be able and willing to pay an affordable mortgage. Mortgage payments are cycled back into the community to help build additional Habitat houses.
Downing said the local Habitat affiliate encourages those interested in applying to call 740-636-1115 with any questions or concerns.
“We actually don’t get a whole lot applications,” he said. “A lot of people assume that they don’t qualify when they really might. So yes, we encourage more people to apply. For the new home owner, there is a 25-year mortgage and no interest rate. We don’t charge interest.”
Each house that is constructed in Fayette County is around 1,300 square feet, with some of the dimensions dependent upon lot size and the amount of family members moving into the home.
“Once, I believe we had a family of about seven…a woman and her six kids,” said Downing. “It’s very rewarding to be able to help those who are in great need of a nice, new home.”
The names of families moving into these new homes are typically not disclosed.
The local Habitat for Humanity utilizes volunteer builders for the construction of the homes. It also relies on donations from companies and individuals.
“We’ve been blessed for 25 years with a great group of volunteers and with donations,” Downing said. “Companies donate materials to us and sometimes they give us a discount on what we do have to purchase. I believe the Masonic Lodge in Bloomingburg has put the roof on every home we’ve built. That being said, we’re always looking for volunteers — skilled and unskilled.”
The local Habitat is also currently looking for individuals interested in joining the Habitat board of directors. Additionally, the affiliate is always seeking donations to continue to provide this necessary service to the residents of Fayette County.
“Sunday’s groundbreaking and open house is all about celebrating this family what has happened with their new home,” said Downing. “We feel that we’ve been a positive force in the community for 25 years and we want to continue that work and to help people find affordable housing.”
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica