Welcome home, Hanlans

Published 11:59 pm Monday, July 13, 2009

The most important rule in the Hanlan household is a simple one — take off any shoes before walking in the door.

That way, there’s no chance of doing damage to the beige shag carpet covering the floor of the county’s first Habitat for Humanity house and the new home of Janie Lynn Hanlan, husband, Tony, and sons, D.J., 15, and Taylor, 8.

On Saturday, the corner of Opp’s West Park Street and Burdick Street was lined with cars and the yard was filled with people as the family of volunteers handed the house’s front door key to its new owners during a dedication ceremony.

“You didn’t just give us a house, you gave us love,” Janie Lynn Hanlan said to the crowd of volunteers. “We can’t begin to thank you enough.”

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit charitable organization that constructs houses for needy “partner families.” 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.

It took more than two months from the April 24 weekend “building blitz” to Saturday’s dedication ceremony for an army of volunteers and skilled laborers to complete the three bedroom-one bath home, landscape the yard and put the finishing touches on the interior.

Inside, all new kitchen appliances, a washer and dryer and even a new living room set await the Hanlans’ move in day.

During Saturday’s ceremony, the family was a given a few more tokens for their new home — specifically, a “helping hands” quilt by the Covington County Quilter’s Guild, a watercolor of the new home by Circuit Clerk Roger Powell and the traditional family Bible given to each Habitat family by its local Habitat chapter.

“This has been a long day in coming,” Habitat for Humanity of Covington County (HFHCC) president Dale “Flip” Pancake said. “And everyone here today, and countless others, are so proud to have been able to be a part of such a wonderful process.”

Jamie Lynn Hanlan said, in the beginning, it was hard to imagine what the construction process would yield. Once it was completed, the finished product was beyond anything she could have dreamed.

“I almost thought this day would never come,” she said. “Things moved so fast in the beginning and then it was almost a stand still. Now, we’re here, and it’s amazing. When we saw (the shell) with just the boards and studs, it looked so small. Then walls went up and I thought, ‘This is real. This is happening. We’re going to live here.’

“Now, we have the keys,” she said. “We’re just so grateful.”

The family is awaiting closing on the property before moving in. Hanlan said they should know an exact date early this week.

With one house under its belt, HFHCC is already making plans for its next build, tentatively set for November, Pancake said.

The next two Habitat families — both from Andalusia — have already been chosen, but Pancake said the family selection committee will begin the recruitment process again in August or September for future builds.

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.