Habitat holds ground breaking for new home
Cassville mom of four to earn three-bedroom house
In life, some days are extra special.
It was that kind of day for Shawna Kraft and her children on May 1, when a groundbreaking ceremony took place in Cassville at 8th and Sky streets for a future home that, once built, and after a few hundred hours of sweat equity of her own and various volunteers, will be their own.
Habitat for Humanity is giving Kraft the opportunity to participate in the building of a house, and a home, from the ground up. The organization has been helping families obtain affordable homes for decades.
Certain parameters must be met. For instance, applicants must have a job, must not make too little or too much, have a clean record and meet other criteria.
The home is also not given, it is earned, and is a collaborative effort between the family and many volunteer entities.
"It's not giving people a hand out, it's giving folks a hand up," said David Hermann, president of Habitat for Humanity of South Barry County. "Habitat's philosophy is, if something is given to you, you're not going to respect it, but if one has to work for it, it's different. You appreciate the home you're going to get because you're going to have to work for it. That's the idea behind this."
Prospective owners must complete 300 hours of "sweat equity," which can include helping with tasks like painting, clean up, mowing the yard, community service and volunteering at a Habitat ReStore.
"The primary goal is to give a family strength, stability and independence through safe, decent and affordable housing," Hermann said.
Habitat for Humanity International was founded in the U.S. in 1977, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn made it a household name. It now works in over 1,400 communities across the nation, in over 70 countries and has helped nearly seven million families fulfill their dreams of owning a safe, decent and affordable home.
Kraft heard about the opportunity through Gail Reed, supervisor at OACAC's Neighborhood Center in Cassville, when she stopped in one day.
"If I had a hard time with electric during winter or with school supplies, they've always helped," Kraft said. "Gail asked if I had thought of signing up for a Habitat house, and I filled out an application. If you meet the requirements, you get put on the list. I never thought I would own my own home, but I believe God had opened a door for me — it just moved very quick. It is an awesome opportunity. You're paying for the house, just at a lower amount. The more people volunteer and the more supplies donated, the cheaper the house will be. That's where the ReStore comes in. Any supplies they use like sinks, lumber, etc., they don't charge you for."
Kraft, who has three daughters, ages 10, 11 and 15, and one son in the Army, got to pick out the floor plan for the home — a three-bedroom, two-bath layout.
"I live in a house with one bathroom," she said. "It's a nightmare [with three girls]. The extra bathroom was my deciding factor."
Houses range in size depending on the needs of the family, but very few have two full bathrooms, Hermann said.
"The square footage of the home Shawna has picked is 1,056 square feet."
The foundation of the home has not yet been laid, but Kraft has already taken ownership.
"I am ready to start mowing the yard, which will count toward my hours, and have talked to the ReStore to volunteer," she said. "There was no procrastination. I was not going to not put in the effort. It's going to be hard work. You have to put in 300 sweat hours [minus any volunteer hours]."
Kraft is also required to take six weeks of classes about home ownership.
"They give you classes so you can be informed," she said. "It's a great opportunity for people. It's a blessing from God because it all fell so perfectly into place."
Between low-cost bids obtained by a builder for supplies, hard work of the family and volunteers, and a zero interest rate, Kraft's house payment will be about half of what she now pays in rent, with nicer accommodations, and a lot less worry about paying the rent or utilities.
Habitat gets its funding through those who own Habitat homes, and the sale of items in its ReStores. Through its unique system, the cost of a home is brought down to an affordable mortgage payment.
"It depends on the home's size, but the average monthly payment is about $300-$375 on a standard 30-year plan," Hermann said. "Her monthly payment will be cut in half.
"That's extra money they will have to maybe get some nice things for the kids, and do other things with. That's the bigger scope — giving families the strength and stability. If they paid interest, it would be no different than buying through a bank."
It truly "takes a village" to build the home.
"It's important we get all the entities involved," Hermann said. "We try to incorporate the family's church, builders and the community, because that's where our volunteer labor comes from, and it shows the community we are not an entity by ourselves."
Hermann said it is a privilege to be part of the project.
"At the end of the day when someone says, 'Habitat for Humanity,' I want them to have a smile on their face," he said.
Kraft praised Reed and her staff for helping her family and leading her to the opportunity.
"They have been an amazing group of ladies to work with," she said.
The next steps are for the builder to make contact with contractors to lay the foundation and start building the home.
Kraft is hoping the home will be completed by Christmas, and Hermann shared the same thought.
"That would make a nice Christmas present for them, now wouldn't it?" he said.