Habitat for Humanity seeks partner families, volunteers

BALDWIN — The Lake County chapter of Habitat for Humanity is currently on the lookout for people interested in becoming involved in this well-known non-profit Christian housing ministry. In particular, Habitat organizers would like area residents to know that they are especially hoping to help families in need of a home.

“We have been having some trouble finding households which qualify for the program but are still able to make the monthly payments,” said Neela Harrington, director at the center.

“It’s been a little frustrating and disappointing, as we really want to help,” Harrington said. “There is certainly a need in our community, but unfortunately we’ve actually had to put a couple of our Habitat houses on the open market, for sale, because we haven’t been able to get partner families to live in them.”

Harrington says that one lovely house on Sheridan Avenue just north of town was completely gutted and redone recently, but that no qualifying family stepped forward to take advantage of the opportunity to move in.

“We have to insist that anyone who gets a Habitat house agrees to abide by the conditions we set down,” she said. “Partner families have to make the monthly payments. If they don’t, the whole deal falls through.”

Residents of Lake County are eligible for a Habitat House if they have lived here at least one year and are U.S. citizens or legal residents, if their income is between $14,000 and $32,000 depending on the size of the household, if they have good credit, manageable debt and a steady job or income.

Equally important is a family’s willingness to participate in the “sweat-equity” partnership aspect of the Habitat program. Each adult more than 18 years old is required to pitch in with 250 hours of Habitat work, either on their own home or a house for someone else. Sometimes this work can be done at the Habitat ReStore in town or on a construction site.

The benefits of participating in the Habitat program have long been recognized. The homes that are constructed are really beautiful, and the policy now is that they are all “green” — that is, energy efficient and built to last. Though this makes the houses more expensive to build, they are a true bargain for owners, with solid insulation and cost-saving features like state-of-the-art electric wiring and plumbing.

Monthly payments for Habitat homes usually run in the neighborhood of $350 to $370, but this includes both taxes and insurance — a very good deal! Furthermore, there is no interest on Habitat loans, making the program especially user-friendly for low-income families.

Habitat would very much like to proceed with more construction this summer, if at all possible. Anyone who has ever participated in a Habitat house raising notes that the experience is always joyful and even spiritually uplifting, the kind of old-fashioned “neighbors helping neighbors” affair that is part of America’s heritage. For the families involved, sharing the Habitat program is deeply meaningful, a way for them to work together and help build their own house.

People who live in these homes say that the memory of working on them lingers happily through the years. “I can look at every room in my house,” said one owner, “and say, ‘So-and-so did that plaster work or put in those pipes.’ It’s a warm feeling — a reminder of so many good friends.”

Anyone who would like to share in the joy of helping out and building a house is welcome to become a Habitat volunteer. Typically, licensed construction managers supervise teams of about ten or twelve workers, all of whom get the benefit of some hands-on training in carpentry, plumbing, wiring, and the like. For more information, contact the Lake County Dabitat for Humanity at (231) 745-2688 or on-line at habitat@carrinternet.com, or stop by the ReStore at 9733 S. M-37.