June 22, 2010
Habitat house gets extra hands
Pennsylvania church group helping to build home on Arthur Ave.
Cortland residents Chad Hutchings and Courtney Stark stopped at 33 Arthur Ave. on Monday to thank a group of high school students from Pennsylvania for their efforts to build them a house.
Hutchings and Stark, who plan to marry Aug. 7, are partners with Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland counties, accepted by the program in the beginning of the year to receive a new house through the agency.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, volunteer-based Christian organization that provides homes for families living in substandard housing.
On Monday, the Arthur Avenue house was just a foundation and floors, with the exterior wall of the first level being constructed throughout the day. Work on the house began May 16.
The house should be ready for the couple to move into by Christmas, said Andrea Rankin, chair of Habitat for Humanity’s Arthur Avenue Construction Committee.
The teenagers, who were wielding hammers and heavy boards despite Monday’s heat, were members of the youth group at First United Methodist Church in Clarion, Pennsylvania.
Youth Director Shelly Rhoades invited Stark and Hutchings to join the group for dinner at Cortland United Methodist Church, where they are staying until Thursday.
“It is very special to us to meet the owners,” Rhoades said.
The volunteers from Clarion are scheduled to return home Thursday and be replaced by volunteers from Habitat for Humanity.
Tenth-grader Katie Beckley took a break from building Monday to sit on some wooden beams with friends. Beckley now lives in Cincinnati but returns to Clarion yearly to help build houses with her friends from the youth group she belonged to when she lived there.
“My faith grows and I feel better knowing I helped people,” Beckley said of why she volunteers.
Kate Matticks, from Clarion, said younger and older children help one another on the work site, with the biggera participants doing most of the heavy lifting. Volunteers ranged in age from 13 to 76 Monday.
Rhoades’ father, Howard, a contractor in Clarion, sized beams to universal building code. The beams would later be part of the first level’s exterior wall. Then interior walls would be built to support the second floor.
“We stop here quite often and drive by every day,” said Stark, adding the feeling of seeing her future home being built by the volunteers was indescribable.
“It is a wonderful feeling,” Stark said.
Hutchings applied for the home through Habitat for Humanity over a year and a half ago and the pair was not selected the first time around but Stark said in the beginning of 2010 they found out they were approved.
The couple, who have a 6-year-old daughter, Emma, were elated.
“We live in an apartment now, and we knew we were going to have to start looking for a home,” Stark said, of how she and her fiancé came to choose Habitat for Humanity.
Rankin said the application process for getting a home through Habitat for Humanity is similar to getting a bank mortgage. Applicants must have good references and no bankruptcy or major debt.
The recipients of the home must also contribute 500 hours of labor to help build their home.
“We can serve lower income people than anyone else. Most people we approve would not be able to get a traditional loan through the bank because their income is low,” Rankin said, saying Habitat for Humanity serves people who are 30 to 60 percent below the median income level.
Rankin said the house is a Cape Cod construction. The site originally was occupied by a Victorian home that burned down in past years.
Habitat for Humanity built one house in Lansing in 2009 and is building two houses, the one in Cortland and one in Dryden, this year and plans to build three houses next year.
“Cortland has been very generous to Habitat with land donations,” Rankin said.
For First United Church Pastor Deryl Larsen, the building efforts are not just about brick and mortar.
“It is about people and our outreach ministry to them and creating a place for them,” Larsen said.
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