The Lake-Geauga County Habitat for Humanity held a home dedication ceremony for the family, which includes: Bryan, Heather, and their children: Caeleigh, 22, Hunter, 15, and Ava, 5, on Oct. 29.
The process that Burton residents Bryan and Heather went through was the not the typical home buying experience. For several years, they had been renting on Evergreen Drive while trying to find a home to purchase that would accommodate their family of five and be accessible for Caeleigh their 22-year-old daughter who is disable and has to rely on a wheelchair for mobility.
“We had to figure something out,” Heather said. “One day I was at the laundromat doing laundry and there was a flyer up and I thought, you know what I’m going to call and see if they can help; and we made the phone call and started the process from there.”
The flyer Heather saw was for Lake-Geauga County Habitat for Humanity. The call she made started the process of buying the house they were already renting and rehabbing it to accommodate the family’s needs.
The rehab process included the installation of a new furnace, hot water heater and nine energy efficient windows as well as a wheel chair ramp from the driveway to the front door to make it easier for them to get Caeleigh in and out of the house, according to Lake-Geauga Habitat for Humanity’s executive director William Meyer.
New appliances were installed and two small bathrooms were converted to one large handicap accessible bathroom with a shower designed to allow a wheel chair to be rolled right into it. Doorways were also widened to accommodate the width of the wheelchair.
Meyers also noted that due to the age of the house there was some structural, electrical, plumbing and drainage upgrades done in addition to a lot of cosmetic work.
“The family is required to do 250 hours of work on a rehab home, and the family helped with all of it,” Meyer said. “It’s what we call sweat equity to work on the house and it’s kind of a down payment. We want them to be successful and learn how to maintain a home.”
Meyers feels the best way to learn how to maintain a home is to help build it.
Bryan, who is a tradesman and good with tools, was able to help with a lot of the wood working and laying the new counter tops.
Whirlpool, Schneider Electric, Monroe Plumbing and Nolan’s Heating all contributed time and materials to complete the house.
During the dedication, the family was presented with a tool box courtesy of Mentor Lowes Heroes by Construction supervisor Bill O’Donnell. Maryellen Sundstrom, volunteer and community engagement coordinator presented them with a fire extinguisher and Dorrie Keough, of the Homeowner Support Committee presented them with a bible.
The family then took a moment for reflection before the blessing of the home by Bryan’s grandfather, John Giel, the ribbon cutting and the presentation of the keys by Meyer and Mary Huge, the family’s homeowner support person.
“It’s overwhelming a little bit to have started the whole process with Habitat a year ago and be done and into our house now,” Heather said. “It is overwhelming.”
“It’s been a long process, but the process is worth it,” Bryan said. “The partnerships that you create throughout the whole process; it’s not a typical home buying experience. There have been ups and downs, but the nice part about the system is you have someone you can always go to like (Mary) Huge. She was always there for us.”
Heather expressed how wonderful the workers were and stated that they just couldn’t explain how much this means.
“We didn’t always see eye to eye, but they were there for us and did what they thought was best for our family and us,” Heather said. “It’s just an awesome, awesome thing,”
The Lake-Geauga Habitat for Humanity started rehabbing houses in Geauga County approximately five to six years ago, even though they prefer to do new builds, according to Meyer. Meyer said the reason for rehabbing is because affordable property for new buildings in Geauga County can be difficult to find.
“We would like to do new builds, but these days, property in Geauga, especially affordable property is scarce and tougher to find than in Lake County. Lake County has a land bank and Geauga doesn’t,” Meyer said. “We would like to do more in Geauga County, but we don’t have the families coming to us as much in Geauga.”