Home sweet home

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 9, 2005

Over the past year, dozens of volunteers for the Suffolk chapter of Habitat for Humanity lived up to their program’s name.

The habitat they were creating, the 17th of its kind in Suffolk, was a 1,500 square-foot, three-bedroom home on Smith Street. In this case, the humanity represented was a single mother of two who needed a new place to live. On Saturday afternoon after a dedication ceremony, Latresa Wilson will begin moving into the home that started construction about six months ago.

Wilson’s name was chosen from a list of 105 applicants during the Humanity’s meeting in February.

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&uot;We check the family’s income, need, credit history, and willingness to participate,&uot; said project director Fran Alwood, who has directed 15 of the Suffolk chapter’s creations. &uot;In order to be a Habitat homesteader, a person has to put in so many hours of sweat equity. Because she is a single working mother, Latresa had to put in 250 hours.&uot;

Grier Ferguson and Charles Pond donated the lot, and a dilapidated building was torn down. In June, a permit was issued and work began.

Roughly 20 different construction groups came out to work on Saturdays, and several churches and other groups provided food for the workers. Nearly every weekday evening, volunteers would come out to work, and Alwood estimates that about 80 people took part. All the while, Wilson was there to fulfill her sweaty commitment.

&uot;I did everything,&uot; said Wilson, who works as an office administrator for the Pak-al packing company. &uot;Whether it was nailing, painting, cleanup, lawn maintenance, everything. But even when I couldn’t come out, people were still here.&uot;

Aside from plumbing, masonry and roofing, everything was done by volunteers, Alwood said.

&uot;Our construction supervisors each put in 16 to 20 hours a week,&uot; she said. &uot;They supervised, worked, and made us do it all again if we didn’t do it right. We never promise that it will be done by a certain time, but it will be done well.&uot;

As 2005 came around, that time finally came.

&uot;I feel so blessed,&uot; Wilson said, looking around her new home. &uot;I didn’t know that so many people would be willing to help a stranger. My kids have been asking me, ‘Mommy, are we going to move today?’&uot;

At 2 p.m. today, some of Suffolk’s other Habitat homeowners will welcome Wilson and her young ones.

&uot;It’s very, very rewarding,&uot; Alwood said. &uot;One of the greatest pleasures we have is to take people around and show them the houses we have built, and show them the care people take of them.&uot;

None of the Habitat’s homes have ever been repossessed or condemned.

In March, Habitat will embark on a new home on Charles Street for a grandmother and her five children. For the first time, new project director Angela Kooncz, one of the Smith home volunteers, will be at the helm. Her daughter Ashley will help welcome the Wilsons with a musical rendition of &uot;Bless This House,&uot; at the reception.

&uot;The volunteer base that we have in Suffolk is fabulous,&uot; said Kooncz, a former co-owner of a construction company in Cleveland. &uot;They’re just wonderful. You just love coming out here for the camaraderie.&uot;

Interested in volunteering? Contact Kooncz at 923-3210.