Habitat chooses 1st family

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A local family has already received a major gift this Christmas season, recently learning it will be the first family to move into a house constructed by Habitat for Humanity of Covington County (HFHCC).

HFHCC president Dale “Flip” Pancake said members of the HFHCC board of directors met Thursday and approved the three families — one primary choice and two alternates. Although the name of the family could not be revealed at this time, Pancake said it consists of a married couple with two boys, and 8-year-old and a teenager.

“We’re not going to announce the names just yet, but as we get further along in the process, we’ll introduce them to the community,” he said. “Now it feels real and we can really see where we’re going with Habitat for Humanity in this county.”

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit charitable organization that constructs houses for needy “partner families.” The houses are built from volunteer labor and the families own the house and pay a small mortgage fee, as well as help out with construction.

Pancake said construction on the first house is slated to begin in either late March or early April. The location of the build has not been determined, but he said that HFHCC has received several generation donations of land.

“We recently received a nice donation of property and now we’re working on the title transfer,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of good support from Realtors, appraisers, attorneys doing this work for us pro bono, that sort of thing. We’re going to try and get the paperwork done by the first of the year, so that should give us some really good options.”

HFHCC received its national affiliation in May and held three public meetings in August, where families were invited to come and learn information about the organization and fill out paperwork to be a partner family.

“This was a very strict selection process,” Pancake said. “The family selection committee went through a lot of applications and it was a hard choice to make. We wanted to make sure to select the best who fit the criteria of need, willingness to partner and the ability to handle the mortgage. The committee had to wrestle with all that, and I feel they made three very good choices.”

In addition to the primary family, the committee also approved two alternate families. Those families will participate in the first build as a way to build up “sweat equity,” defined as time working on a house build or time spent taking classes As a partner family, all members in the family must complete a total of 300 hours of sweat equity.

The secondary families are made up of a single mom with two children; and a family that includes a grandmother, granddaughter and several grandchildren. All three families will be required to take classes on house maintenance, home safety and budgeting and finance; these classes will count toward their “sweat equity.”

“We didn’t want to make the first family have to go through those classes all alone,” Pancake said. “This way, they can take the classes with the two secondary families and work through that together. And the secondary families can also help out with the building of the primary family’s house.”

Pancake said HFHCC has already received tremendous support from the community, but is still accepting donations.

“This is really a good thing and we’re receiving so much support,” he said. “We’ve already had a fairly nice number of financial contributions and offers of in-kind materials that have come in. We still don’t have all the funding for the first house, so we can still take in donations, but we’re getting really close.

“Especially in these hard economic times, I appreciate everything the community has done to help us realize this.”

HFHCC is a 501(c)(3) organization, making donations tax-deductible. Donation checks should be made out to “Habitat for Humanity of Covington County” and sent to Habitat for Humanity of Covington County, P.O. Box 1034, Andalusia, AL 36420. In addition, HFHCC is now putting out a newsletter; to join the mailing list, write to the group’s address.