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Habitat for Humanity fulfills need, has a few of its own

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By Laura Clark

 

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Scents of turkey and stuffing drifted from the Godow kitchen as Levi, 12, chased Lee-Lee, 7, and Olivia, 6, out the front door and onto the porch where, Heidi, 14, lounged on the porch swing.

Their mother, Ashley, took in the children’s squeals and looked about her new home with amazement. The family moved into their Habitat for Humanity house on Jail Hill Road in Shelbyville on Sept. 2, but Ashley Godow said she still finds it hard to believe.

“Everybody just came together to make something beautiful and affordable,” she said.

Godow describes herself as one of those people caught in the middle when it came to homeownership. She had applied for a Habitat House several years ago, but she didn’t meet the qualifications.

Once she earned a degree and was employed at St. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville as a nuclear medicine technician, she had enough money to try to buy her own house, but the deal fell through on the closing table because the monthly payments for the best interest rate were too high for her budget.

“I was devastated,” she said. “I didn’t think I would ever get a house to raise my kids in.”

But when she applied to Habitat for the second time, her family was accepted.

Ashley and the kids, plus friends and family, put in 500 hours of “sweat equity” working on the house. They got to choose the colors for each of the four bedrooms. The girls chose shades of purple, while Levi went with Alabama crimson. Godow  picked out bright white kitchen cabinets.

Then she bought the house from Habitat at cost, and pays a monthly mortgage on an interest-free loan.

“Some people think that Habitat is a giveaway program,” said Torrey Smith, president of Shelby County Habitat for Humanity. “But it’s not. You have to earn it. It’s the family, community and local businesses that build the house.”

Godow’s house marked the first time Habitat had to buy a lot. Usually landowners donate lots, but the current economic situation has people holding onto their investments.

So Habitat has been dipping into its savings to continue acquiring property and building homes. It had support in building the Godow’s home from Alcan Packaging, which financed half the cost of the house, donated tile and helped with supplying appliances.

Smith said continued financial support from local businesses and residents is one of the three big needs Habitat has right now.

The organization is also in need of a part-time executive director, who would be paid for the first time. Currently all the board members are volunteers.

“If we have somebody who’s intentional with it, we can grow,” Smith said.

A director, Smith added, could spearhead a Habitat Restore and develop a winter fundraiser to compliment the spring’s annual golf scramble. The board of directors also needs to fill the position of Family Nurture Director, who would educate a family on home ownership.

The third need is for more lots. Habitat recently bought two lots on Ardmore Lane, which will be developed next year. The lot next to Ashley’s house has a house on it that is 40 percent completed and waiting on a qualified family to go into it.   

”We are searching for a family. We have a few candidates right now,” Smith said. “We could get it finished by Christmas. In order to really finish the house we need some financial support.”

Alcan will continue to pay for half of this house. And Ashley Godow has committed to helping as well.

She qualifies for the first-time homebuyer’s credit, and wants to donate half of what she receives back to Habitat and her future next-door neighbors. It would be her way of saying thank you.

“That’s all I ever wanted -- was a house,” she said. “The kids will always have a home to come back to.”