Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Indiana is celebrating a quarter-century of “building homes, building hope.”
Formed as DeKalb County Habitat for Humanity, the organization elected its first board of directors and officers June 23, 1994, and broke ground for its first home on Oct. 10 the same year.
The home was finished just two months later, ensuring that Joyce Fugate and her three children were home for Christmas in their Habitat house at 418 N. Peters St. in Garrett.
Originally founded in 1976 by Linda and Millard Fuller, Habitat for Humanity is a global, nonprofit organization with the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. The ultimate goal of Habitat is to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness by building adequate and basic housing.
Since breaking ground on its first home 25 years ago, the DeKalb County affiliate has partnered with neighboring affiliates to serve northeast Indiana. In 2009, Habitat affiliates in DeKalb and Steuben counties merged. The Steuben County affiliate had been active since 1990. The Noble County affiliate, which was formed in 1988, was included in 2011, and the organization became known as Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Indiana.
Marianne Stanley serves as the organization’s executive director. She joined the DeKalb County Habitat board in 2003 and served on the family selection committee.
“I remember when (partner families’) kids were little, and now I’m being invited to their graduation parties,” Stanley said warmly.
Habitat partner families must meet certain income guidelines. They invest 300 hours of “sweat equity,” half before their build projects and the remainder during the construction of their homes. They also attend financial literacy classes.
The average cost of a Habitat home is $85,000, and each family purchases the home with an interest-free loan.
To date, Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Indiana has constructed 40 homes with a total value of $3.4 million, Stanley said. The loans on 13 of those homes have been paid off.
Habitat’s most recent home-building project was a house at 207 E. Mill St. in Angola.
Last year, Habitat kicked off a new program, Restore Our Community, aimed at making critical repairs to homes. The program was developed by senior marketing students at Trine University and helps low-income homeowners who are affected by age, disability or family circumstances and struggle to maintain the integrity of their homes.
So far, six critical repair projects have been completed, Stanley said. Four more critical repair projects are in the works, she added.
Like home-building projects, critical repair projects are paid for by the homeowners through interest-free loans, Stanley said.
Habitat also installs handicap-access ramps and has the material and homes ready for five ramps to be built in Steuben County. Now it needs people to carry out the labor.
“We have everything except the volunteers,” Stanley said.
Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Indiana goes beyond its regional boundaries, tithing to Habitat for Humanity International to build homes in other countries, Stanley said.
From 1995 through June 2018, the affiliate had tithed $73,352, serving about 26 international families.
“We don’t just help here. We help other places, too,” Stanley added.
Stanley said Habitat provides opportunities to families beyond home ownership. Because families have been able to live in decent conditions with furnaces that work and water that runs, they have enjoyed accomplishments such as sending their children to college and even starting their own businesses, Stanley said.
Now, Habitat is planning to open a home-improvement warehouse selling construction material that has been donated.
“We want to recycle,” Stanley said. “We’ll be self-sustaining.”
“We’re looking for warehouse space either to rent, lease or purchase, because we are running out of warehouse space at our garage,” Stanley said.
Habitat hopes to have a warehouse within the next six months, she added.
Reflecting on the past and looking to the future, Stanley said, “The communities have been so amazing. Every time we build, it fills the heart. People come together. Everybody is there for one thing. People do care about each other. They care about their fellow man.”