Jaunt for Habi­tat, hope

Home for fam­ily in need

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - FRONT PAGE - By Jes­sica Botelho-Ur­ban­ski

A sin­gle mom and her son get to move from their cramped apart­ment to a spa­cious new home at the end of the month, thanks to the fundrais­ing ef­forts of 49 strangers.

For 22 years, Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity Man­i­toba’s Cy­cle of Hope cam­paign has helped build a new house for a fam­ily in need ev­ery sum­mer.

This year, 49 cy­clists col­lected more than $226,000 in do­na­tions and set off on a marathon 1,600-kilo­me­tre ride. They be­gan in Ni­a­gara Falls, Ont., wound through the United States and ended in Win­nipeg Satur­day. The trek took about two weeks. San­dra Ko­zlowski and her 10-year- old son, Aba, get to move into the side-by-side built with the money raised by Cy­cle of Hope and were in awe of the strangers who took time out to help, they said.

The mother and son have been wait­ing pa­tiently for a new home for 6½ years. In that time, the rent in their apart­ment block has in­creased 30 per cent, Ko­zlowski said.

“They got an OK for the rental in­crease, so rent is al­most as ex­pen­sive as it is to own (a house),” she said. “Now our money is sta­ble, and we have a yard and a play­room and our friends.”

The two-block ra­dius around Nairn Av­enue where the Ko­zlowskis will be liv­ing is pop­u­lated by many fa­mil­iar faces. Many Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity homes are in the area, and Ko­zlowski al­ready met some of her neigh­bours while putting in the manda­tory 350 hours of vol­un­teer work build­ing oth­ers’ homes be­fore get­ting keys to her own.

The Ko­zlowskis are ea­ger for mov­ing day at the end of July.

“There’s go­ing to be more room, which is nice… I’m not go­ing to have to go up and down tons of stairs,” said Aba.

The fam­ily’s cur­rent apart­ment is on the third level of a build­ing that doesn’t have an el­e­va­tor.

“I’m just glad we’re mov­ing out of our apart­ment,” Aba con­tin­ued. “It was worth the wait.” “Very, very much so,” his mom added. Sandy Hop­kins, the CEO for Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity Man­i­toba, said events such as Cy­cle of Hope are more nec­es­sary than ever with the in­creas­ing costs of build­ing homes.

“Ev­ery year it’s more ex­pen­sive to build, so you need more cash just to stay in the same place,” he said. “The num­ber of homes we build is based on how much cash is avail­able.”

The Man­i­toba char­ity usu­ally builds be­tween 20 and 25 homes per year and al­ways has a long wait­ing list for more, de­spite the fact they never ad­ver­tise their ser­vices, Hop­kins said.

“There’s hun­dreds of fam­i­lies that come, and we don’t ad­ver­tise. It’s just our con­nec­tion to the com­mu­nity,” he said. “It’s a great or­ga­ni­za­tion to work for... it’s an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has lots of sun­shine. Even to­day, there’s lots of sun­shine,” Hop­kins said while stand­ing in the rain.


Char­lie Onyske smiles as he leads a pack of 49 Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity Cy­cle of Hope cy­clists Satur­day.

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