- Your News
By ANDREA AGARDY
An area family will soon have a brand-new home to call their own, thanks to the efforts of the local nonprofit organization and a group of volunteers.
Highland Rim Habitat for Humanity’s current project – the construction of a five-bedroom home in Winchester – is nearly 80 percent complete, and the keys will be turned over to the new homeowners in the coming weeks, according to director Jim Miller.
Habitat for Humanity was founded in Georgia by Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda, in 1976. Highland Rim Habitat for Humanity began its affiliation with the international housing ministry in 1992 and to date, has constructed 27 homes across Coffee and Franklin counties for low-income families.
Miller estimated the entire process – from filling out the initial application to officially becoming homeowners – takes approximately one year. Habitat is currently seeking families in Manchester and Tullahoma interested in receiving a Habitat-built home. For more information, call 931-393-2383 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Habitat acquires the properties on which it builds homes from a variety of sources. The organization does purchase some low-priced lots using the funds it generations from donations. Other lots, Miller explained, are donated by private property owners, while some are given to the organization by the city or county.
“The city (Tullahoma) recently gave us one lot of Grizzard Street,” he said.
By donating the land to Habitat for Humanity, Miller explained, cities and counties are no longer responsible for maintaining the property and the houses that are built on those lots will begin contributing to the bottom line in the form of property taxes.
Once a piece of property has been acquired, the design and construction processes begin. Habitat International provides the local office with a variety of floor plans depending upon the size of the home being constructed. The recipient family then works with Habitat contractors and officials to personalize the design.
“We custom build a house to the family’s needs,” Miller said. “They have an allowance to use to upgrade fixtures and appliances, basically anything they want, up to a certain point.”
Miller said early homes Highland Rim Habitat for Humanity built were constructed largely by volunteers, adding that in the early days of the local organization many retired tradesmen volunteered their time and skills to the projects. Now, however, he said the majority of the work – between 65 and 70 percent – is done by contractors Habitat hires.
That’s not to say that volunteers are not valuable or necessary on Habitat builds. Led by a skilled volunteer, crews of volunteers without a background in construction are organized and to handle projects ranging from painting and landscaping to installing window and door frames and cleanups. Most of Habitat’s volunteer days are held on Saturdays, in hopes of attracting more people to come out and lend a hand Miller said, adding the day is broken up into two four-hour shifts to make it is convenient as possible for people to contribute their time.
Lately, Miller said, he has had the most luck enlisting volunteers from local business and the military. For example, the Air Force, AEDC contractors, First Vision Bank and American City Bank have recently put together teams to go out and volunteer at the Winchester construction site. Lately, more teenagers have expressed an interest in getting involved, as well, often through their participation in school clubs and civic organizations. For example, he said, five members of the freshman class at Tullahoma High School recently spent a Saturday at the Winchester house painting.
“I get calls at least once a month regarding a school group needing a civic project,” Miller said.
Volunteers are also put to work in the Habitat office, where they perform tasks like data entry, filing and preparing mailings.
Although recipient families do receive a new home at the end of the construction project, Miller said Habitat does not provide handouts. Families who are chosen to receive a house are required to contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity,” either working on their own home, another Habitat build or volunteering with another nonprofit organization. And once they have the keys in hand, owners of Habitat-built homes have the same responsibilities of any other homeowner, Miller said.
“When we build you a house, we deed that house to you,” Miller said. “We deed that house to you, the house is in your name. But so is the mortgage. You have to pay us, Habitat, what it cost to build that house.”
Building a home in this area costs Habitat for Humanity an average of $65,000, Miller said, adding that the homes are typically appraised at 125 percent of that amount. Habitat holds the no-interest mortgage on the home, with the length of the loan ranging from 20 to 25 years. According to Miller, the average mortgage payment for a Habitat home is approximately $350 a month, which includes the loan repayment, homeowners insurance and property taxes.
Highland Rim Habitat for Humanity relies on donations to keep the construction crew working. Miller said the organization receives regular donations from several churches and civic groups throughout the year, along with one-time contributions from individuals. In addition to monetary gifts, Habitat also accepts a wide range of materials, ranging from sinks and faucets to furniture and new insulation. These items are either used in the building process or sent to Habitat’s ReStore, a retail outlet that sells the products to the public at a deep discount off original prices. Proceeds from ReStore sales go toward building more homes.
Miller encouraged anyone looking for a productive way to spend an afternoon or for an avenue to give back to their community to give Highland Rim Habitat for Humanity a try.
“To me, it’s about what you receive personally,” Miller said. “It’s what you get out of it to know you have helped a family receive the pride of ownership of a house. You can literally see what you’re doing grow and you’ll probably get to meet the family that’s getting the house since they’ll be out there working too. You’ll get to see what you’re doing to help them progress.”
Additional details about Highland Rim Habitat for Humanity, including information on how to apply to receive a Habitat home, how to volunteer and how to make donations, can be found online at www.hrhfh.org.
Andrea Agardy can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.