Turning over the keys to six Habitat homebuyers in one month

By the end of this month, we will have handed over the keys of six newly renovated or built houses in Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor and say “welcome home” to six Habitat homebuyers. Each of the six families or individuals living in Washtenaw County have completed ‘sweat equity’ hours, which includes helping work on Habitat homes, participating in home maintenance classes and receiving one-on-one financial education classes. Each qualified Habitat homeowner will purchase the homes from Habitat Huron Valley with an affordable mortgage. The closings will mark the sale of  19 houses to Habitat homebuyers in the last fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2018.

“We believe that strong and stable homes build strong and stable communities,” said Sarah Stanton, Executive Director of Habitat Huron Valley. “We are thrilled to provide affordable homeownership to families and individuals of low income in an effort to stabilize our neighborhoods and provide opportunities for growth. We are grateful for every hand that has helped make these houses a home.”

To honor each Habitat homeowner, we hosted a Dedication Open House, where volunteers, sponsors and supporters will celebrated the homeowner’s achievement. The May 24 Women Build house dedication for Shawna Swoffer will mark the final dedication during this month. Other dedications include Diane Goff’s home on Bud Avenue in Ypsilanti, sponsored by the J Ferrantino Foundation; the Ponce Family’s home on Hunter Avenue in Ypsilanti, one of two houses sponsored by Toyota Motor North America – Research and Development; the Hickman Family’s home on Jeff Avenue in Ypsilanti, our first new build in several years; the Sowe Family’s home on Hull Avenue, sponsored by the House of Faith; and our Ann Arbor house for a family of four, sponsored by Zingerman’s Community of Businesses.

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A Calling for Faith

Each year, members from four area congregations join hands to raise funds and build stable homes for a future Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley homebuyer. This year, the crew is seeking more hands.

First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor and First Baptist Church of Ypsilanti again joined forces to build the House of Faith. The church members kicked of renovating the 2018 house, the future home of the Sowe family, in March 2018 with a goal to raise $20,000 to support the cost of materials associated with their build days. The churches will partner together from 9 AM – 2 PM on Fridays and Saturdays through mid-May to help complete the home.

In an effort to reach more and to do more, the House of Faith congregations are welcoming members from any church to volunteer on their build days to help with renovation tasks and learn more about Habitat Huron Valley’s impact on the community. Open days for faith volunteers are Friday, April 27 and Friday, May 11. Volunteers are welcome for the 9 AM – 2 PM shift, where lunch will be provided. To sign up to volunteer, click here.

House of Faith has partnered with Habitat Huron Valley since 2011 and generously provided more than 2,000 volunteers and more than $200,000 in donations. Last year, the House of Faith congregations volunteered for 15 days with 211 volunteers and raised roughly $19,000 collectively to help build the Hinman Family’s future home.

“It’s the house, but it’s so much more. It’s the community that is being built,” said Verna Hinman, the owner of the 2017 House of Faith on Parkwood Avenue in Ypsilanti.

To learn more about how you can get your church involved, contact Leah Borst at 734-882-2004 or lborst@h4h.org.

Women join forces to make a difference in Washtenaw County

From the Ann Arbor News (MLive)

YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP, MI – A group of women met on International Women’s Day to rip out rotted flooring and window frames to help create a home for another woman in Washtenaw County.

The four women, part of Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley’s Women Build committee, met at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 8, at 1540 McCarthy St. in Ypsilanti Township to start a renovation that will continue into the summer.

That’s when the new homeowner will move in to a house with a brand-new interior, courtesy of the Women Build program that has transformed houses each spring for the past four years in Washtenaw County.

Homeowners are required to commit 250 hours of “sweat equity,” and volunteer alongside others to complete work on the property, said Leah Borst, a development associate who has coordinated the Women Build program for the past two years.

They also must complete Habitat classes like home maintenance and finance before they can apply for a low-interest mortgage through the organization, and then select a house from the inventory and get started on renovations.

Borst talked about the impact she sees as a result of the Women Build program as committee members on Thursday worked nearby using crowbars to remove part of the subfloor while new windows leaned against the wall studs visible throughout the house.

The volunteers don’t care about chipped nails or how their hair looks, Borst pointed out, and are more focused on the project in front of them.

“It really hits home being a woman,” Borst said. “You have to experience it for yourself, the movement we’re making. It’s just the camaraderie and the way the women rally together to support another woman.”

The impact is so strong that last year’s homeowner, Andrea Johnson, has since joined the program as a volunteer and continues to work with Habitat, Borst said.

A majority of the women in Habitat’s homeownership program are single mothers, Borst pointed out, who have been turned down by traditional mortgage companies for insufficient income or bad credit.

“There’s definitely no shortage of women in need of a home,” Borst said.

The program has built interest over the years and garnered sponsors like the James A. and Faith Foundation and supporters like PNC Financial Services and Lowe’s.

About $44,000 has been raised to fund renovations for this year’s program, Borst said, with a future goal of extending the program to work on two houses per year.

Around 13 groups of women are signed up to volunteer at this year’s renovation site, and volunteers are still being sought for open days like May 4, Borst said.

Those interested can contact her at lborst@h4h.org for more information.

It is the first time Steve Clark, senior house leader at Habitat, has been able to work with the Women Build program and he said there’s a lot of excitement to see what his Habitat coworkers can do.

“It’s cool to get them out of the office,” Clark said. “We’re always in their world; now they’re in my world. Everybody’s going to get some experience.”

Among the women volunteering Thursday was Katherine Rich, president of Habitat’s board of directors, who worked to remove nails from the subfloor.

“There’s always a job for someone to do,” Rich said, taking a quick break from the day’s work. “As you can tell, we’re still in the demo stage.”

She appreciates the opportunity to increase her own knowledge when it comes to home construction and maintenance, like operating a table saw, and to witness the excitement of new homeowners.

“It’s nice to see someone looking around at a space they know will be theirs,” Rich said. “I’ve learned you can do things you may think you cannot do. After a day of work, you really see what you can do.”

To read the full story and see the MLive pictures and video, click here.

The Van Hoose Family’s Story

Several years ago, Christina Van Hoose watched Habitat Huron Valley build a home for a family living down the street from her childhood home.

“At that time, I had the same idea as many others, that Habitat for Humanity gives away houses,” Christina said. “Wow, was I mistaken. In 2016, I enrolled in a Home Ownership Education class, where I gained a wealth of knowledge on various homeownership programs for low- to mid-income families.”

A widowed mother of two sons, Christina spent four years rebuilding her credit score and financial status. After many denials for a traditional mortgage, Christina finally received an approval from Habitat Huron Valley.

“This opportunity for homeownership is more than a dream come true. It is truly a blessing from God,” Christina said. “Not only has this experience strengthened my faith, it has also been a significant teachable lesson for my sons. Being in this position has offered me an opportunity to lead by example.”

Christina’s two sons, Emmanuel, 14, and Cameron, 8, are “dedicated to their studies and devoted to maintaining academic excellence, which is reflected by their honor roll achievement recognition,” according to Christina. The two are also involved in extracurricular activities, such as the Mentor 2 Youth program, and enjoy sports, like football and basketball.

“They enjoy playing as well as being spectators of all sports,” Christina said. “From time to time, they are able to get me involved to participate, I’m actually pretty good!”

An Ann Arbor native, Christina graduated from Huron Hills High School and attended Washtenaw Community College, where she earned an Associate of Arts degree in criminal justice and liberal arts. She then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in criminology and later a Masters of Science in sociology from Eastern Michigan University.

“For the last 5 years, I have been employed as an internal accountant specialist for the nation’s largest LP gas company,” Christina said. “In addition, I am actively involved with the PTO for both Emmanuel and Cameron’s schools and volunteer with the Mentor 2 Youth Program.”

In their spare time, the family of three “love to spread the word of God and enjoy helping others in any way possible, from volunteering in the community to random acts of kindness.

“I thank you Habitat for Humanity for partnering with my family,” Christina said. “May God bless you ALL for everything you do.”

Renovations on the Van Hoose Family’s home was funded by Full House Sponsor Adient, a long-time partner of Habitat Huron Valley. Adient, formally Johnson Controls, has sponsored 16 houses since 2010 with nearly $210,000 in lifetime sponsorship funds and more than 350 employee volunteers each year to help renovate or build houses in Washtenaw County.