RAISE THE ROOF

The foundation is set, and the walls are up.

The home Steve Engelking and his three children have been longing for is taking shape.

Seymour Christian Church members had helped construct the walls of the family’s home in the church parking lot this past summer. But an error by Habitat for Humanity of Jackson County forced that frame to go into storage and required a new one to be built to fit on the lot in the 800 block of West Laurel Street in Seymour.

Despite the delay, Engelking and his family are still appreciative of people coming together to provide them with a new home.

“I’m still thankful and grateful that it’s still going on,” he said. “It will give us a place to live.”

There is still a lot of work to do, and Habitat for Humanity of Jackson County, a nonprofit Christian organization, is looking for volunteers to complete the house by the target date of mid-February.

Construction is Fridays and Saturdays. Volunteers must be at least 16 years old. It’s not required to know a lot about construction, but some knowledge helps, said Phyllis Nantz, volunteer director for Habitat for Humanity of Jackson County.

About mid-January, after the wiring, plumbing and heating are done and drywall is up in the home, volunteers will be needed the most to help with painting and trim work.

Nantz said it sometimes takes people seeing a house being built to know Habitat for Humanity exists locally, and then they want to help.

“Lots of times, they don’t know that there’s a Habitat. Somehow, it misses them,” she said. “I would like to see more people in the community do this, help with this.”

People also can volunteer by serving on the Habitat for Humanity of Jackson County board or one of the committees, including building, resources, nurture, selection and worship and celebration. The board can have between 12 and 25 people, Nantz said, and there are currently about 20.

“They don’t have to be on the board to be on a committee, but board members are expected to be on a committee,” Nantz said.

The Laurel Street home is the 16th Habitat for Humanity project in Jackson County. Others have been in towns across the county.

The program is for low-income families that can make a house payment, and they are required to partner with Habitat for Humanity and help with construction. The house payment is supposed to be between 16 and 25 percent of their income, Nantz said.

“I always tell them we won’t accept them as a partner family if they don’t have enough money to make at least a decent, no-interest principal payment and have enough money to live on,” she said.

The local Habitat for Humanity typically receives more applications from families once they see a house being built for someone else, Nantz said.

“It usually takes at least a year from the time that the board approves them to get a house built,” she said. “We have to find a contractor, and we have to set up the volunteer schedule.”

Nantz said it took several months to build the first home in the county, and it cost $35,000. The last house the organization built took 10 days and cost about $70,000.

“We try to have one (build) per year,” she said. “There have been a few years we were not able to do it. Habitat now has a policy that we’re supposed to build something each year or do a rehab of some kind.”

She said the Laurel Street home will cost about the same amount as the last house they built. The cost depends on how many people Habitat for Humanity has to hire to help do certain tasks, such as the foundation, drywall, plumbing and heating.

“A lot of those people will donate their time and pay for the product,” Nantz said. “If they can’t afford to donate their time, we’ll pay them.”

The local Habitat for Humanity typically receives financial support from local churches.

“One church shared their Oktoberfest profits with us. Then some churches just take that on as part of their mission,” Nantz said. “I think it’s important for churches to do local mission work as well as mission work in other countries.”

When Seymour Christian Church helped build the frame in the summer, that was the second time members had been involved in such a project. Even though the error was made by Habitat for Humanity on the size of that frame, Nantz said it is being stored and will be used in some other way.

Nantz said she has helped with all 16 builds in some capacity, including the past 11 years as volunteer director. Part of her job includes following up with the families after they move into their home. Habitat for Humanity suggests directors do that for at least three years, but Nantz said she follows them longer than that.

She said it’s neat to see the families go from their previous living conditions to a brand-new home.

“One of our families, when somebody asked one of the kids what they thought about the house, the kid said, ‘Now I can have my friends over,’” she said. “Sometimes, they are ashamed of where they are living, and they can’t do anything about it.”

A few of the local families have paid off their mortgages.

“It’s a heartwarming experience because some of these families didn’t have decent houses to live in,” Nantz said. “We hope that they’ll take better care of their home, and we hope that their children will have a better opportunity in life.”

Nantz said she has been fortunate all of her life to live in a nice home and have a roof over her head, and she wishes the same for everyone. That’s why she continues to be involved with Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s a good feeling, like I’m doing something worthwhile,” she said. “You can talk to any of these (volunteers), and they’ll tell you that they enjoy the work. They want to give back to their community. There’s not one of them that wouldn’t tell you that.”

Bob Gillaspy is serving as the contractor for the Laurel Street home. He said this is his third time being involved in a Habitat for Humanity project.

“It’s a worthwhile project,” he said. “We’re providing low-cost, energy-efficient housing for people.”

Gillaspy, who is a local Realtor, said it’s rewarding helping with the build, and he likes how it gives families a sense of pride and home ownership.

“I’ve built a lot of houses in Seymour that are affordable houses,” he said. “It’s good to see them take care of their property and be able to take advantage of something that’s beneficial for them.”

Gillaspy said Jackson County is fortunate to have a Habitat for Humanity organization.

“It’s good for them to build a house to encourage others to take care of their own,” he said. “You can look around this project, and they are also helping the neighborhood, where we’ve got some older homes and things like this here. You notice across the street here, people are fixing their houses up.”

At a glance

Habitat for Humanity of Jackson County is building a home for a family in the 800 block of West Laurel Street in Seymour.

The nonprofit Christian organization is seeking volunteers, who need to be at least 16 years old, to help work Fridays and Saturdays. It also is looking for people interested in serving on the board or on one of several committees.

To help out, call 812-523-6450.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.