For Kelli Larsen, Sunday was a dream come true.
After a full year of spending every Saturday rebuilding a house on Roosevelt Court in Sycamore, Larsen was finally able to call a house a home after years of renting. It was a gift she always wanted to give her 14-year-old son Keagon and 21-year-old son Eathon, who has yet to see his new home because he is in South Korea with the military.
“It’s been an adventure,” Larsen said of building a home with volunteers from Habitat for Humanity. “The hearts of many have really been in this house and it has a lot of memories already.”
Sunday marked the 11th home the DeKalb County Habitat for Humanity volunteers dedicated to a family in need – a milestone volunteer coordinator Chris Atherton said she was happy to reach. Unlike most Habitat for Humanity homes, Atherton said volunteers rehabilitated an early 1900s home instead of building from the ground up.
The major overhaul, which included stripping the house down to the studs, presented more challenges than usual for the group. Atherton said difficulties, such as removing the whole basement floor, and surprises, such as books and bottles found in the walls, made the build one of the most unique experiences for the group.
“The thing with rehabbing is you never know what you are going to find,” Atherton said. “It was a cool experience.”
Habitat for Humanity serves the community by building – along with the chosen family – simple and affordable homes with no interest loans to families who meet the qualifications. Those qualifications include living in DeKalb County for at least a year, meeting income requirements and living in unsafe or substandard housing.
And despite a downturn in the economy and increase in foreclosures, Atherton said the group is struggling to find families to build for. She said she was not sure if people were intimidated by the application process, but encouraged eligible residents to submit applications and seek out information at www.hfhdcillinois.org.
“We have a lot of options in DeKalb,” she said. “And we have people inquire but then we don’t hear from them again.”
Larsen said after working for a full year with volunteers to achieve her dream of home ownership, she would recommend Habitat for Humanity to anyone who needed the assistance. Larsen addressed more than 20 of the volunteers and friends Sunday in her new home as she thanked everyone involved while holding back tears of happiness.
“What a sight it is,” she said of her new home. “We finally have a place to call our own.”
Larsen’s new home would not be possible without the help of volunteers such as Curt Willard who came out every Saturday to organize volunteers in the mornings and work in the afternoons.
Willard said volunteering to build homes has become a passion as he has helped with seven houses in the county and even took a trip to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild. Although the construction labor comes after long work weeks, Willard said he would not trade in his experiences for anything.
“It’s such a warm feeling,” he said about watching families enter their home for the first time. “It’s always very rewarding to see the final results.”
In addition to seeking families to build for, Habitat for Humanity also is seeking volunteers and people to serve on its board. Atherton said those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 815-758-5055.