Men­noHomes pre­pares new af­ford­able hous­ing for Syr­ian fam­ily

St. Ja­cobs Men­non­ite Church makes its old par­son­age avail­able for use by the agency

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - FAISAL ALI

ON THE GROUNDS OF the St. Ja­cobs Men­non­ite Church sits the old par­son­age. In its hey­day, the mod­est home was a place of respite for the con­gre­ga­tion’s pas­tor and fam­ily, but for decades now the build­ing has stood largely un­used. See­ing lit­tle ben­e­fit for the prop­erty them­selves, the church has teamed up with the non-profit Men­noHomes to find a new use for it: as af­ford­able hous­ing for a newly im­mi­grated Syr­ian fam­ily liv­ing in the re­gion.

“At the end of the day we’re kind of fresh­en­ing and re­vi­tal­iz­ing a house that had been sit­ting va­cant in or­der to turn it into af­ford­able hous­ing, and that’s kind of what we’re all about,” ex­plained Dan Driedger, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Men­noHomes, about the project.

Work be­gan to pre­pare the home on Septem­ber 16 and the hope is that, with con­tin­ued vol­un­teer sup­port from the com­mu­nity, it will be ready for its new ten­ants by mid-Oc­to­ber. While work is un­der­way, the fam­ily, too, has been pitch­ing in to ready their home, says Driedger.

“He, Ahmed [She­hadah], has been vol­un­teer­ing along­side the other vol­un­teers so he’s been in there, you know, strip­ping wall­pa­per and paint­ing and that sort of thing as well. He’s got some sweat eq­uity into it.”

The fam­ily of seven, in­clud­ing five young chil­dren, im­mi­grated to Canada a year-anda-half ago un­der gov­ern­ment spon­sor­ship. The kids have al­ready been reg­is­tered for school, while the fam­ily has been liv­ing in a farm­house in the town­ship, north of Elmira.

“It’s a fam­ily that we were con­nected with through Wool­wich Com­mu­nity Ser­vices,” ex­plains Driedger.

Amongst the work needed is some paint­ing and ba­sic ren­o­va­tions. Men­noHomes has con­tracted out for re­pairs and up­grades, in­clud­ing in­stalling new wiring, re­plac­ing the old oil fur­nace with a high-ef­fi­ciency gas fur­nace and wa­ter heater, and new floor­ing.

“And be­yond that re­ally the bulk of it is just a lot of fresh­en­ing up – you know, strip­ping wall­pa­per and paint­ing and that sort of thing,” said Driedger, not­ing that they still needed vol­un­teers to help out.

For Mark Diller Harder, the church’s pas­tor, the project just makes sense.

“We have a church house that used to be the par­son­age for the con­gre­ga­tion years ago, [but] it hasn’t been used that way for 30-40 years,” he ex­plained.

“We weren’t sure what to do with it, this build­ing that needs some work and it didn’t have a use for the con­gre­ga­tion any­more. So rather than just tear it down or some other kind of thing we de­cided to lease it to Men­noHomes. So it’s … a re­ally nice ar­range­ment and re­ally good to work with Men­noHomes on that.”

The church en­tered into a 10-year lease agree­ment at a dis­counted rate with Men­noHomes.

“They’re ac­tu­ally pro­vid­ing it as long as we cover the op­er­at­ing costs,” said Driedger, not­ing that the con­gre­ga­tion was help­ing fur­ther by con­tribut­ing to­wards the ren­o­va­tion costs and through vol­un­teerism. “So the church has been very sup­port­ive.”

The ten­ants in turn will be pay­ing rent to­wards cov­er­ing those ren­o­va­tion costs over a pe­riod of time, as well as pay­ing for the fixed costs such as in­sur­ance, says Driedger.

“But it will be at an af­ford­able rent level, so it will be much less than mar­ket rent.”

For Driedger, he is just glad that even though Men­noHomes did not have space for the fam­ily at their newly opened apart­ment build­ing

in Elmira – the Foundry – they were able to find af­ford­able hous­ing for the fam­ily none­the­less.

“We’re just happy we can be in­volved, we’re happy that the church thought of us as a part­ner to use for this,” he says.

Those in­ter­ested in lend­ing some as­sis­tance renovating the house, or do­nate money, can call Driedger at Men­noHomes at 226476-2535, or email him at ddriedger@men­


Dan Driedger, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Men­noHomes, is among those renovating the old home for its new ten­ants.


The af­ford­able hous­ing still needs a few more coats of paint be­fore it’s ready to re­ceive its ten­ants by mid-Oc­to­ber

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