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HOME is where the heart is

Monday, November 29, 2004

It's a great almost-Christmas present for Josephina, who works at the Storm Lake Wal-Mart. There should be plenty of room for her and her three children. This will be the sixth home Habitat for Humanity has built in Buena Vista County over the past 10 years.

Buena Vista County Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Coordinator Nancy Alderton said Josephina has been pitching in from start to finish to earn 'sweat equity' toward the home. Josephina is also doing volunteer work teaching ESL students to earn equity time toward the home.

"She's been a very hard worker," Alderton said. "Her kids are very excited. I think she's learned a few things too."

Josephina and her children Bryan, Juan, and Heidy hope to move into the home in January. As part of the Habitat for Humanity program, Josephina was able to select a floor plan to customize the home for her family's needs.

"I think it's quite an efficient design," Alderton said. "She's been very excited about it and I think she should be."

Alderton also has high praise for volunteers-both adults and youth-who have gone the extra mile to push construction far ahead of schedule.

"The volunteers this year have been absolutely incredible," Alderton said. "I'll say, 'Let's go home, guys,' and it's so hard to get them to leave. The house has gone very quickly."

While excellent weather has obviously helped move things along, Alderton said volunteer efforts have helped even more. Alderton also credits a lot of help from youth groups such as the Buena Vista University chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

"The BVU students are an incredible help to us," Alderton said. She said there has also been help from the St. Mary's and Storm Lake Presbyterian churches.

It's examples of such widespread cooperation that really make Habitat for Humanity what it really is-a program to build relationships and not merely houses, Alderton said.

"Habitat is also building communities, which is what we're interested in," Alderton said. "The people I work with are fantastic."

In the program, the local committee selects a deserving family from a list of applicants. If selected, the applicant is expected to put in 'sweat equity' in the home plus pay off a loan. Loans are generally negotiated at a lower fixed rate.

"It's progressing much more quickly than the other houses that we've done," said board member Joe Kelly. While he did not have a concrete move-in date, Kelly said it could be around the holidays.

Alderton said volunteers are finishing walls and expect to start painting Dec. 1. That should take about two weeks. Starting Dec. 15, finish work should begin. She estimates a finish date at the end of January.

Some of the last-minute details include hanging blinds, doing trim, and installing carpet and vinyl. The Whirlpool corporation has donated a stove and refrigerator and is making a washer and dryer available at cost.

Mudders and painters are needed as well as help with trim, shelving, and vanities. Anyone who wants to provide worker meals would also be greatly appreciated, she said.

Work hours are 5-8 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Fund-raising at all levels helps the program. Students in the Buena Vista University chapter of Habitat for Humanity raised over $500 for the program.

Hy-Vee partners with Habitat for Humanity to help in

its local projects. Habitat for Humanity publicity chair

Staci Spoor said residents are encouraged to save their pink slips from Hy-Vee and place them in the drop box at the job site.

Josephina is certainly not the only person in Storm Lake in need of decent, affordable house. The need continues throughout Iowa, the United States, and the world.There is no county in the United States where a minimum-wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent. Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies estimates more than 14 million U.S. households pay more than half their income for housing.

Anyone who wants to volunteer or wants more information may contact Alderton at 732-1705. Buena Vista County Habitat for Humanity will start looking for a new family for its next project in January. Interested families may call Joe Galey at 732-5746. Habitat is also interested in lots available for its next project.



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