There’s no place like a home of your own

Rib­bon-cutting cer­e­mony May 31 marks the of­fi­cial open­ing of Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity Water­loo Re­gion’s first-ever project in Welles­ley Town­ship

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - VERON­ICA REINER

THEIR NEW HOMES COM­PLETE, a pair of fam­i­lies made set­tling in Welles­ley of­fi­cial last week with a rib­bon-cutting cer­e­mony at the first-ever Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity build in the vil­lage.

The event May 31 was the cul­mi­na­tion of a lot of hard work by many vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing the home­own­ers them­selves, and the sup­port of the com­mu­nity.

“It’s a very in­ter­est­ing piece of magic,” said Kris­tine Dearlove, fam­ily ser­vices man­ager with Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity Water­loo Re­gion. “You don’t need a mil­lion dol­lars, you don’t need a thou­sand hours, you don’t need any skills or ex­pe­ri­ence. Just give us what you can and we’ll turn it into homes for fam­i­lies.”

In re­turn for an at-cost, no-in­ter­est mort­gage with pay­ments capped at no more than 25 per cent of house­hold in­come, Habi­tat home­own­ers are re­quired to put more than a lit­tle sweat eq­uity into the project.

“Any Habi­tat fam­ily has to work 250 hours per adult in order to get their home,” explained Melissa Win­kler, the mother of one of the fam­i­lies who achieved the dream of own­ing her home through Habi­tat in Welles­ley. “So be­tween the two of us, we had to put in 500 hours. Friends and fam­ily can do­nate 100 of those hours. We can work on our own house, we can work on any habi­tat build­ing site, or at the Re­Store. We were for­tu­nate enough to be able to work on our own house for most of that time, which was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence. It felt like ours from the very first time we walked in the door, be­cause we built it.”

The proud new home­own­ers in­clude Melissa and Deete Win­kler, and their chil­dren. The other fam­ily is Kyra Bezecny and Brandon Martin, along with their three chil­dren. The fam­i­lies are now neigh­bours in a pair of semi-de­tached homes at 1290 and 1294 Queen’s Bush Rd.

“Melissa grew up in Welles­ley, so she’s a lo­cal per­son,” said Dearlove. “Over the years, had lived in New Ham­burg for a while. They wanted to be as ru­ral as pos­si­ble, but Welles­ley doesn’t have a whole lot of rental op­tions. When she heard we were build­ing, she was a lit­tle hes­i­tant to ap­ply, be­cause every­one seems to think that Habi­tat homes are for peo­ple who need it more than we do or don’t make as much money as we do, or who are liv­ing in hor­ri­ble conditions. And that’s not the case. You need to have a steady, sta­ble source of in­come to own a home. Be­cause there are lots of steady and sta­ble bills. So I was talk­ing to her quite

some time and en­cour­aged her to ap­ply. They had a job, and they had kids, so they needed this op­por­tu­nity.”

Win­kler em­pha­sized her grate­ful­ness to be able to raise her fam­ily in a com­mu­nity like this, the place that she grew up.

“Kyla and Brandon have three lit­tle ones,” said Dearlove. “He grew up in the ru­ral com­mu­nity. They bounced around from St. Clements, spent a lit­tle bit of time in Welles­ley, sort of all over the ru­ral ar­eas. They al­ways wanted to get back. They were liv­ing in Kitch­ener, that’s where the rentals tend to be, it wasn’t meet­ing their needs. “Cer­tainly wasn’t giv­ing them that space and that open, com­mu­nity feel that they’ve al­ways been look­ing for. He works in con­struc­tion but tends not to work lo­cally. So she’s of­ten on her own with the kids dur­ing the week. So they spend a lot of their volunteer times at the Re­Store. They worked re­ally hard to fit their hours in within the year, given the chal­lenges of not every­one is home all the time. They put a lot of ef­fort into mak­ing this hap­pen.”

Last week’s for­mal ded­i­ca­tion cel­e­brated that ac­com­plish­ment.

“It’s prob­a­bly one of the most mean­ing­ful cer­e­monies that we have at Habi­tat,” explained Karen Red­man, the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s CEO. “It’s sort of a cul­mi­na­tion of the fam­i­lies com­ing to­gether with vol­un­teers and donors. And the rib­bon-cutting cer­e­mony is usu­ally done in con­junc­tion with a board mem­ber. We do a bless­ing. There’s also the pass­ingthe-ham­mer tra­di­tion, where a ham­mer is held by all the peo­ple in the au­di­ence, and they ei­ther say a prayer or make a wish for the fam­ily for good fortune. It’s deeply mean­ing­ful and you re­ally get to see the joy on fam­i­lies’ faces when this hap­pens.”

Any­one in­ter­ested in own­ing a home this way must go through a lengthy ap­pli­ca­tion process as well as meet spe­cific re­quire­ments. This in­cludes hav­ing a steady and sta­ble in­come that is be­tween $30,000 and $59,000, as well as hav­ing at least one child. Any­one in­ter­ested in learn­ing more or vol­un­teer­ing can visit www. habi­tatwr.ca.

[VERON­ICA REINER / THE OB­SERVER]

New neigh­bours in Welles­ley, a pair of fam­i­lies cel­e­brated the of­fi­cial open­ing of their Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity-built homes last week. Left, Kyra Bezencny and Brandon Martin, along with their three chil­dren, Owen Bezecny, Allyson Bezecny and Nash Martin. Right, Melissa and Deete Win­kler along with their two chil­dren, Bruce and Clyde.

Vol­un­teers and com­mu­nity mem­bers came out to cel­e­brate the of­fi­cial open­ing.

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