Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
July 13, 2009
Habitat for Humanity gives couples keys to the future
Knights of Columbus swing hammers, give $100,000 to help build a Sherwood Park duplex
WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Kimberlea and Mike Bennett will move into their new Habitat duplex Aug. 8.
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
SHERWOOD PARK - About 150 volunteers, many of them Knights of Columbus, donned their hard hats as they began building Habitat for Humanity's first two homes here July 4.
"The community has come together in a real Christian way and in real neighbours-helping neighbours-way by rolling up their sleeves and helping to build these two homes," said Alfred Nikolai, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Edmonton.
The houses have already been assigned to two deserving Sherwood Park families for whom paying rent is their biggest burden in life, he said. "These homes give these families hope to get out of the cycle of living paycheque to paycheque."
The duplex, at 304-308 Charlotte Close, should be completed in two weeks. The keys will be turned over Aug. 8.
One of the families that will move into the duplex is heart warmed by the show of support.
"This is absolutely incredible," said Mike Bennett, who together with wife Kimberlea, was at the site helping build the home. "These are complete strangers and they are helping us; this is amazing."
The Bennetts have two children with them and one back in Newfoundland, where they came from about a year ago. They were struggling financially there so they came to Alberta to get a fresh start.
A FRESH START
Mike is a first year apprentice electrician and works in a restaurant part-time. "We would have never been able to purchase a home in Sherwood Park without help from Habitat, at least not yet, " Kimberlea said. "This is a wonderful program."
St. Charles Knights of Columbus Council 8325 is the project's presenting sponsor. Grand Knight Dan McDonough said the Knights decided to take on the project to help mark the council's 25th anniversary.
They donated $100,000 toward the construction of the duplex plus the manpower for the 14-day build.
"Charity is our first mandate," McDonough said. "Providing a gift of a house for somebody is just something our council can be very, very proud of."
The County of Strathcona also gave $100,000 towards the Habitat home, while the Sherwood Park Rotary Club and the Centennial Rotary Club contributed $10,000 each.
Families must meet certain conditions to qualify for a Habitat house and are expected to put in 500 hours of volunteer work with Habitat as down payment on the house.
"We sell these homes at zero per cent interest to our families and we calculate their mortgage according to their monthly income so that they never pay more than 25 per cent of their monthly income for their shelter," Nikolai explained.
According to the Habitat president, some working families in Sherwood Park pay up to 70 per cent of their monthly income in rent.
"So their rent is their biggest burden in life," Nikolai said. "Every time they get a paycheque they ask the question to themselves and their families: 'Do I pay the rent or do I buy groceries; do I pay the rent or do I buy my kids boots?'"
Habitat for Humanity turns that upside now. "When they become a Habitat family their biggest burden in life, that monthly payment for their shelter, becomes their greatest blessing in life because every monthly payment is an investment in their future," Nikolai explained.
If, after a number of years, a family wants to sell, they have to sell the home back to Habitat to ensure the house remains affordable. But the family gets a full refund of all mortgage payments they have made.
"In other words, these two families, instead of never having a penny of savings at the end of the month, they will be able to save 25 per cent of their income," Nikolai said.
"That gives them a chance to get ahead in life."