March 19, 2015: A letter from Maggie Withrow as she imagines our Penn Hills house turning into a home.
Saturday, March 14th was a cold, rainy, and by most standards, a dreary day. The Penn Hills neighborhood was quiet and welcoming as I approached the rehab house where Thrivent volunteers had scheduled their kick off day. There were three Thrivent volunteers on the porch with Volunteer Coordinator Derek Morris, curiously inspecting the insulation machine and stacks of insulation that would be installed in the upstairs rooms and attic today. The living room had another handful of volunteers laughing and sharing stories about other Habitat projects they had worked on. Two long-term, regular volunteers were in the dining room, and another few volunteers were in the kitchen registering and signing volunteer waiver forms. At least 15 persons so far and the house was full of excitement and anticipation.
I went solo into the basement where kitchen cabinets were waiting to be sanded before another coat of fresh paint. Off the house to the right was an interesting room. Plans for this room are to have it open to the back yard, perhaps as an additional bedroom or den. Replacement windows and a door to the outside will provide a fun, family gathering space. I could imagine kids playing in the back yard. Back upstairs, more volunteers had arrived. It was close to 9 am start time.
Off the living room was a real find. A bedroom with a full bath. I wondered who might live in this room? Perhaps a grandparent, or a parent? A teenager who “needs space?”
Upstairs there were three more bedrooms and another full bath. Like the one downstairs, the bathroom will be upgraded with new fixtures. The Habitat crew had prepared the bedrooms for the insulation. Each room had holes drilled into the walls for the blown-in insulation. New energy-efficient windows will make sure that the family will not have to pay too much on their heating or cooling bills.
The house will cost about $49,000 to rehab to energy-efficient standards, and Thrivent’s $24,000 contribution will get us closer to the goal. Over 20 candidate families have applied for this house and our Family Selection Committee is working diligently to match the right size family, with adequate sustainable income and limited debt, to qualify for Habitat’s no-profit mortgage. Chances are the family will end up paying less for their mortgage than they are paying in rent wherever they live right now. To qualify, applicants must 1.) currently be living in substandard housing, 2.) have the ability to pay back a 30-year interest-free mortgage, and 3.) be willing to partner with Habitat by doing a minimum of 350 hours of sweat equity.
I’m curious who will live in this house and turn it into their home. One thing I know for sure is that the volunteers who were working Saturday made sure that the dream will be a reality later this year. If you’ve never donated to Habitat or volunteered on a jobsite, it’s an opportunity you’ll likely never forget.
L to R: Al Todd, Heath Kondu, Hurt Herbst, Derek Morris.