Habitat 'Blitzes' Michigan

June 17, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Jimmy Carter Work Project building event is focused entirely on Michigan this year and will culminate in 235 new homes for families in need in nearly every county of the state.

Some 6,000 Habitat for Humanity volunteers across 80 Habitat affiliates are participating in the five-day building “blitz” that began yesterday and runs through Friday.

The weeklong Jimmy Carter Work Project has been held annually since 1984 and is the largest Habitat International event worldwide.

“This is the first time a state has been selected for a work site as opposed to just one small area,” said Pam Doty-Nation, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, the largest Habitat affiliate in Michigan. “So this is a very unique thing going on this week here.”

Former President Jimmy Carter’s son, Jack Carter, Congressman Vern Ehlers, Mayor George Heartwell and representatives from sponsoring companies will join Doty-Nation and Habitat volunteers in kicking off the “Work week” at a 10 a.m. press conference today.

Habitat’s Kent County affiliate will have completed 25 of the 235 new homes when the project wraps up later this week. That’s a record for the local affiliate, and three more than the previous record of 22 built in 2002, Doty-Nation said. The 25 homes include 21 that Habitat of Kent County built over the 2004-2005 fiscal year.

Four more new homes are being “blitz built” or quick built this week in Grand Rapids. Three of them are located at 24, 32 and 39 Canton St. SW and one at 118 Putnam Ave. SE. Preliminary work on those four homes began several weeks ago, Doty-Nation said.

In addition to construction and related work on the four blitz houses, volunteers also will be doing landscaping at the 21 houses completed this past year. Doty Nation said about 230 volunteers are turning out every day this week to lend a hand on the combined projects.

She said the Habitat homebuyers of the blitz houses are taking the week off to invest some “sweat equity” into their new homes. The soon-to-be homeowners include two single women, one single male and one married couple, all of whom have children.

Habitat is a construction company, a mortgage company and a social service agency all rolled into one. The organization builds affordable housing and provides needy homebuyers with zero-percent interest mortgages payable over 25 years. Mortgage payments are reinvested in the community in the form of capital to build more Habitat homes.

Habitat homebuyers typically invest about 500 hours of their own time to help build their home. The homes have three bedrooms and 1,000 to 1,200 square feet of floor space. Average house payments are $450 a month.

It currently costs Habitat $75,000 to $85,000 to build a house — $50,000 of which has to be raised in cash. It also has to raise $15,000 in in-kind donations.

This year’s “blitz” sponsors are Fred Meijer and Meijer Inc., Chemical Bank, Household Finance Co., Lowes Home Improvement, DTE, Nationwide Insurance and State Farm Insurance, Hilb Rogal & Hamilton and Willow Creek Church of Chicago. Sponsors contribute both financial support and volunteers. This year, five sponsors have undertaken  “whole house” sponsorships, Doty- Nation said.

“This year we have many, many people coming from outside of Grand Rapids. It’s kind of unusual for us to have a lot of people coming from other places, but that’s fairly typical for a Jimmy Carter Work Project.”    

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