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Family receives new home

Sep. 22, 2012 @ 11:44 PM

HURRICANE — You have heard the old “saying, “What goes around, comes around,” and often with a negative connotation, but for Karen White of Hurricane, the good seeds she sowed while a college student have been returned to her in full measure.

On Thursday, Sept. 13, White, her two young sons, James and Michael, staff from Habitat for Humanity of Kanawha & Putnam, Pastor Martin Hallet of St. John’s United Methodist Church in Scott Depot, Pastor Cheryl Winter of St. Timothy’s in the Valley Episcopal Church in Hurricane, and many others who worked on White’s House gathered to dedicate the 149th Habitat for Humanity house in West Virginia and the first since 2004 in Putnam County.

When the Habitat for Humanity staff dedicates a house, they go through a touching ceremony that includes the new homeowner, themselves and others who have worked on the house. Shawn Means, executive director of Habitat of Kanawha & Putnam, welcomed the approximately 60 people who attended the dedication. Pastor Cheryl Winter, White’s pastor at St. Timothy’s, gave the opening prayer. Star Hogan, who has lived in her Habitat House for six years and is now a volunteer for the organization, read from the book of Matthew 5: 14-16 which says to be a light to the world. She then handed the new Bible to White and her sons.

Pastor Martin Hallet, representing St. John’s United Methodist Church, sponsor of the house, lit a candle and said this:  

“As we light this candle today, may it be a sign of the presence of Christ in your home and may He always be your guide.”

New homeowner Karen White talked about the process of applying for and helping with the construction of the house, thanking the many people who worked tirelessly on the construction, and referred to the scrapbook she kept of that process. Pastor Hallet then offered “A Litany of Dedication,” and a prayer asking for a blessing on the house.

One of the nicest parts of the ceremony involves the gifts given to the family. Vera Grimsley of The Embroidery Guild presented White with an embroidered plaque for the home. Mary Brown, of the Quilters Guild, offered three quilts, one for each family member, and Sarah McGuire, HFH selection committee member talked about the process of selecting someone for a Habitat house. She then presented White with a hammer which is given to each homeowner at the dedication of each completed home.  

Once the ceremony was over, those who wished to see the house lined up for a tour of the three bedroom, one bath home.

When a Habitat House is built, each home has a story or history about its conception, complete with its poignant moments and what some would term “God Things.”

Karen White, who is originally from Nebraska, went to college in Sioux City, S.D.. While there, she spent time with a group that would spend a week during spring break with Habitat building houses. Amazingly, she spent one of those weeks in Pendleton County, W.Va., working on a Habitat House. Eight and a half years ago, she came back to West Virginia with her husband because of his job. Now a single mother of two sons, she is the parish administrator at St. Timothy’s in the Valley Episcopal Church.

About nine months ago, a man in White’s church, John Corrie, a volunteer and member of the Putnam County Habitat for Humanity Advisory Committee, approached her about filling out an eligibility questionnaire to determine whether she was eligible to apply for a Habitat house. White, who was staying with a friend, said she felt she had nothing to lose by filling out the questionnaire.

According to Sarah McGuire, who is a member of the Habitat selection committee, the applicant is pre-screened through what she calls a “rigorous process.” She said they check credit reports and determine whether the applicants have three basic components: a need, a willingness to partner, and the ability to repay the interest-free loan. After studying the applicant’s need, budget and willingness to participate in the “sweat equity,” the committee makes a decision. The entire process takes about three months. McGuire, who has volunteered with Habitat for 16 years, said it was a great organization in which to volunteer.

“You see how wonderful it is. For me to be able to call someone and tell them they were approved. They will thank me and I will say, ‘No it’s you.’ It’s the way they have lived their lives,” she said.

Once the applicant or applicants have become a partner family, they are assigned an advocate who becomes their first line of communication. White’s advocate was Star Hogan.

The partner family, the single or couple applicants must then complete a required number of hours which includes working (called sweat equity) on other Habitat homes that are in the process of being built, working at the ReStore, and attending classes on home repair, finances, and being a new homeowner. If a couple is buying the house, they must do 500 volunteer hours. A single owner must complete 250.

White said the classes were very beneficial. The financial class came from “Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University,” which is a 12-week course.

“It was extremely helpful. It covered all aspects. It was very motivating, spiritual and encouraging,” White said.

The homeowners’ class included basic plumbing, legal issues, and other aspects of home ownership such as being a good neighbor.     

 “It touches on all kinds of topics. It was timely for me because I knew my closing was coming up soon,” she said. She was also required to attend six workshops at the ReStore, such as planting vegetables and making usable items from recycled material.

“I really liked the workshops put on by the ReStore. I think they do a good job,” she said.

One of the most important aspects for the house is the location. Habitat staff initially told her they probably wouldn’t find property in Teays Valley that was donated because of the high costs of land there. White, however, had seen a lot in Hurricane during the early application stage that was for sale and she suggested the Habitat staff call about it. The lot is on a neighborhood street near the school her son James attends.

“If I wasn’t accepted, it would make a nice lot for someone else,” she said and laughed.

Incredibly enough, the people agreed to donate the land to Habitat.

“The boys and I are really excited to be in that neighborhood. We’ve met some good neighbors already and are thankful for them. They seem to look out for each other,” she said.

When a home is built, that house needs a sponsor. In this particular case, the sponsor was St. John’s United Methodist Church in Scott Depot. Pastor Martin Hallet said the idea was first proposed in a meeting last April when a committee was discussing a way to celebrate the church’s 50th anniversary. Hallet believed the church should do some kind of service for the Lord to demonstrate their stated purpose which is “To introduce people to Jesus and grow as disciples together.”   With some church members spending time twice a year working on Habitat houses, the group decided the church would sponsor a Habitat House. After learning a house would be built in Hurricane, they agreed to sponsor Karen White’s house.

When a group decides to sponsor a Habitat house, they must raise $50,000. This money will go toward a future Habitat house. St. John’s began in 1962 as a mission outreach of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in St. Albans. The present building was erected in 1968. The 400-seat sanctuary has about 350 for worship each Sunday. However, they are growing out of their present church. The question for church members was should they take on a sponsorship of a Habitat House when they knew they were going to be adding on to their own church building. The congregation answered with a resounding yes.

“They were excited about the concept of giving to God first,” Hallet said. “We should first build the Habitat House — we were doing the right thing,” Hallet added.

Groundbreaking began June 28, and work began on the house July 16 with a very special group of men from Bayer Crop Science. The group does one “roof raising” a year and spent July 16-21 putting the house under roof. Lunch was provided to workers each day.

“Bayer loved it. They were working, and someone fixed a meal,” Hallet said.

On July 31, the rest of the work began with an Aug. 31 deadline. Workers came from different churches including St. John’s and St Timothy’s in the Valley. River Ridge Church and REA of Hope in Charleston were scheduled, but the house was finished before their date arrived. In addition, workers came from the staff of Thrush and Clark Allergy office and Moms and Tots of Teays Valley.  

Although workers were scheduled until August 31, the house was finished two weeks ahead of the deadline. During this time, the church was raising the $50,000. The goal for the money was Sept. 30. Individuals, businesses, such as CAMC Teays Valley and Teays Physical Therapy donated money in addition to contributions from other churches. The fundraising goal, also, was met a few weeks before deadline.

“It was pretty exciting when we realized we had gone over the top. We were at $46,000,” Hallet said. He then challenged his congregation. With donations coming in on that Sunday, he was able to announce to the congregation at their evening service that they had met their goal.

Pastor Hallet summed up the community effort at the dedication.

“We’re all together on one ship. Not one donor, not one church. Isn’t this how God designed this ship?”

Karen White said Habitat for Humanity is a great organization and she is very grateful for her family’s new home.

“I think Habitat volunteers did a great job on the house. It is the perfect size for our family. I really respect HFH and its mission. I really support them as an organization,” she said.

“The three of us are richly blessed. We’re very thankful,” she said.  

St. John’s United Methodist celebrates its 50th Jubilee on Sept. 30. Worship will be at 8:30 a.m. and again at 11 a.m. Homecoming will start at 3 p.m. with food, fun, games, inflatables, and music.