News : Warrensburg, Mo. News

Habitat builds homes, futures for families

Jul 29, 2009, 12:00 PM


(Photo submitted, Illustration by Danielle Wolf)
WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- A plot of land on West Gay Street will be the new home for Deborah Nielsen and her family, thanks to Habitat for Humanity, volunteers and donations.

Deborah Nielsen was selected from 23 applicants in Johnson County for the Habitat for Humanity program. Marilyn Hillsman from Habitat for Humanity explained the criteria for people to receive a home.

“It is for people who are in housing that is unsafe or inappropriate for habitation,” Hillsman said.

She said some of the homes that are chosen may not have heat or air conditioning, and some may live in a house that has burned.

Another criterion the applicants must have is income. Hillsman explained that the owner of a Habitat house has to be able to make mortgage payments, as well as contribute about 160 sweat equity hours. Counted with the sweat equity hours is something called “Introduction to Habitat,” which Hillsman said is a class that teaches life skills to the person, including budgeting.

Along with the class, however, Nielsen will be participating with the volunteers for the rest of the sweat equity hours in building the new home.

“We’re looking for people in a bad situation, but they have to be willing to help themselves,” Hillsman said.

When narrowing down the applicants, Hillsman said the first thing they look at is income and a lot of the applicants didn’t have an income. She said some were just looking for a house and others were looking for other types of assistance, in which case, they refer them to the other types of aid available.

An exceptional aspect of the program is the volunteers and donations and how they work toward building the new home. Barbara Curtis from the Habitat for Humanity program said they’ll solicit donations from anywhere, including “residents and institutions, as well as grants from banks and businesses.”

Curtis said they can sell “square foot certificates” for $43 per square foot and foundation stones for certificates. She said there were lots of square-foot contributions.

One of the highest donations for this house came from the First Baptist Church in Warrensburg.

Clifton Wise from First Baptist said the church wanted to do partnerships for the community and said about Habitat for Humanity, “They’ve been good stewards for their vision.”

Wise said the church not only donated $30,000 to the project through capital fundraising, with church members donating since fall of last year, but they have also acquired many people ready to volunteer.

Habitat for Humanity will take any volunteers. Curtis explained the volunteers range from those with lots of construction experience to no experience at all. She said anyone who is interested may visit the Habitat Web site.

Habitat doesn't have a volunteer coordinator, but Curtis said the coordinator works with the site supervisor. The site supervisor will ask for a specific number of people who can either do a certain task, or are willing to learn a certain task and the volunteer coordinator gets the people for the project.

“Our audit is based on how many different people touch this house,” Curtis said.

They try to keep a log of the volunteers, so they can see how many people contributed to the project.

“Houses are not important, but they are essential,” Curtis said. “It’s not about building a house. It’s about building a community.”

A “Come and Go” informational meeting will be held at the Regional Trails Library, 432 N. Holden St., July 30 from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. for people interested in volunteering.

A ground-breaking ceremony will take place at the site where the house will be built, 626 W. Gay St., Aug. 2 at 2 p.m.
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