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.”
“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 passing-the-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.