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Paynesville Press - July 5, 2006

Habitat for Humanity coming to Paynesville

By Addi Larson

If home is where the heart is, a home provided by Habitat for Humanity has the love of a community built within its walls.

A task force was formed in Paynesville last February - in conjunction with Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity , which has its headquarters in St. Cloud - beginning the process to bring Habitat for Humanity to western Stearns County for the first time.

After two meetings, the decision was made to pursue the project and committees were formed, said Allen Anderson, who chairs the Paynesville Habitat for Humanity task force, which currently has 15 members.

This September, the nonprofit, ecumenical, Christian housing organization will begin accepting applications from prospective families for the home.

The goal is to begin building next spring or summer, according to Anderson. Before construction can begin, $100,000 needs to be raised. A single donation of $5,000 has been the largest so far. One community member is seeking 10 individuals who would each donate $1,000; portions of which would be matched. "Our first need is to raise money," Anderson said.

The second need is to designate a location for the house. Presently, the site of the house has not been determined, said Anderson. A lot is estimated to cost approximately $25,000-$30,000 in addition to the construction, which will require approximately $75,000.

According to Anderson, all donated money for this house will be spent on this project, with any excess money being saved for future projects in this community. The committee has been communicating with Mayor Jeff Thompson and with the city council about working together to help fund the project.

The family that is selected for Paynesville's Habitat house must have 25 hours of sweat equity invested in this or any other Habitat project followed by a nine month training period, which will answer questions for the upcoming homeowners. After the training period, single-parent families typically volunteer 200 hours of additional required sweat equity and two-parent families typically volunteer 500 hours. Volunteers to donate labor and materials will be sought in the upcoming months.

Payments from the family will be based on income, requiring 30 percent, and will be made, without interest, against a 20-year mortgage. The additional value of the house will be written into a second mortgage and forgiven after approximately 15 years. The house will be owned by Habitat for Humanity until the mortgage is paid and will be sold at no profit.

Ten percent of the mortgage payments and all other monies collected will be tithed. Proceeds from the family's payments will go toward the building of homes internationally, the building of other Habitat homes in central Minnesota, and the building of additional homes here in Paynesville.

Anderson said the goal is to adjoin a deserving family with their own home that is simple, affordable, and adequate. There will be one year of mentorship, which will help with concerns and questions about home ownership, once the family moves in. "We want them to be successful," he said. "We want this to be life-changing for people. We want this to be a boost to our community."

The community has been positive so far, according to Anderson. "The opportunity for the community to come together to do a Christian act for someone that will benefit and will allow them to do good things for other people, it's a win-win situation," he said.

During Town and Country Days, Paynesville's Habitat for Humanity committee hosted a booth selling "pork chops on a stick," bottled water, and pop. There were also two-by-six wall studs, which will be used for the construction of the house, and were signed for a suggested donation of $1.

Anderson said the volunteers in the booth, many of whom are retired, seemed to enjoy their time spent fundraising and were even making up songs to sing while they served. For Town and Country Days, there were 60 Habitat volunteers to help set up, sell, and clean up. Donations of materials were provided and businesses lent their support. The grills and the training to use them were also provided. The booth will return on Sunday, Aug. 6, during the Festival of Ethnic Traditions.

Visibility and awareness of the Habitat project throughout the Paynesville area is an ambition of the local committee members, who want to get the word out. "We want to make as big a splash as possible," said Anderson. Once construction is finished, he added, the intention is to have the home blend in with the others on that street and to have the family appear like any other homeowners.

Habitat for Humanity has built more than 200,000 houses since its 1976 inception and is now at work in 100 countries, building one house every 26 minutes. Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, founded in 1989, has completed 37 homes, of which 36 still belong to the initial homeowners. They serve Stearns, Benton, Sherburne, and Wright counties. Their goal is to build 10 houses per year by 2010.

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