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Habitat for Humanity launch well attended

Ready to help - Melanie Fegan of Elora is ready to help on the newest Habitat for Humanity build that will take place in Fergus this year on Forfar Street. She lives in a Habitat home in Elora. Behind her are some of the people who attended the launch of the build on Jan. 14.     photo by David Meyer

Habitat for Humanity launch well attended

by David Meyer

FERGUS - MPP Ted Arnott plans to be there.

Centre Wellington Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj will help.

In fact, there are a lot of people who are getting involved in the Habitat for Humanity build of two semi-detached homes on Forfar Street in Fergus this year.

On a cold Saturday afternoon last week, over 70 people turned out for the launch of the 2012 Habitat for Humanity build.

“It takes literally hundreds of people to build one of these,” Arnott told the audience. He noted “It brings together the best in our community.”

Ross-Zuj said, “Looking around the room, I know there is amazing talent. We are indeed truly blessed everyone is stepping up to the plate.”

For Diane Nelson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity for the area, the attendance there was a good sign of the help to come.

“This is truly an impressive turnout,” she said, noting organizers are never sure who will show up or in what numbers when a build is being launched.

Building a semi-detached house means “two families will be served,” but Nelson added the need is great. “There’s a high percentage of people who need a hand up.”

Habitat board member Dale Schenk told the audience, “There is real enthusiasm in this room right now.”

He added most people “take for granted having a safe, warm, affordable home.” He said the launch is the start of that for two more families in the community.

He added each family will provide 500 hours of work at the builds.

Dave Rushton explained the Forfar Street building will have a brick front to blend into the neighbourhood, and there is a “brick ticks” program where people can sponsor a brick for $20 and that helps raise funds for housing materials. There is a tax receipt for anyone who buys a brick.

Scotia Bank in Fergus is also part of that program and will contribute to that fund. There are also sponsorships of $1,500 or $5,000 where companies can provide labour for a day or a week respectively.

Emcee Karen Welch told the group that Habitat can use donations of funds and materials, as well as labour.

Nelson explained the process for a Habitat for Humanity house. Volunteers build it, and a committee chooses a family that wants a home but cannot qualify for a conventional mortgage. The family, or often a single member of it, will put in 500 hours of “sweat equity” and later be responsible for the mortgage, heat, hydro and other bills that are part of home ownership.

Habitat for Humanity chooses the homeowner and holds the mortgage. As it is repaid, the group uses that cash to begin its next project.

And a huge percentage of the builds are a big success. Volunteer Ian Rice said there have been only two of 18 homes where the family is no longer in the house. And one of those came about because the owner remarried and her husband had a home.

In each case, Habitat did not lose anything. It simply went out and found another family that qualified to take over the mortgage.

Pride in ownership

Melanie Fegan of Elora gave some of the strongest reasons to support Habitat for Humanity.

The mother of three did not work on her house; she took over a house from someone who moved out to get married. So she helped with a Habitat build in Guelph to provide her 500 hours of work.

“Somebody told me I would never own a house. Single people on my income could never own a house.”

Still, she applied and, after several months, she qualified for an interview and figured, “At least I’ve got a shot at my own house.”

With her voice catching, she said, “I really wanted to own my house” and have her kids be able to go to school and say they had their own home.

“Then, Diane told me I got this house. It was the most incredible day of my life,” Fegan said.

She said it was a fabulous experience working with volunteers from all over at the build. “I can’t even explain it to you unless you’re doing it yourself.”

She said on one day she spent four hours digging a hole for a fence. “That might be your day, but the family now has a fence in their yard.”

Fegan asked people to donate “whatever you can give of yourself.”

Fegan was raised in Fergus and now lives in Elora, “but we’re all one family. Even an hour of your time makes a difference.”

To volunteer, donate, or apply for a home, contact Habitat for Humanity Wellington County at Suite 300, 104 Dawson Road, Guelph; phone 519-767-9752; fax 519-767-9096; or email

January 20, 2012


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