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Habitat for humanity update: Building house into home

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Starting Thursday, women from all over the county will gather in Franklin to start building Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County’s 12th house. The all-women build will feature an exclusively female construction crew sawing boards, hammering drywall and painting walls.

When they’re finished in October, Franklin resident Brandy Shockley and her two daughters will move into their first home.

The presentation of a new house is cause for a celebration. But it’s also a chance to look in the organization’s past, to the previous families whose lives have been altered through the Habitat for Humanity program.

Catching up with four previous partner families, you learn about their unique decorating touches, the unexpected hardships and the unique occurrences that only come from owning a house.

All admit that it can be hard work. But none of the families would trade their experiences since moving in.

How to be a partner family

Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County is looking for partner families to go through the program and purchase one of the organization’s future homes.

To become a homeowner

Potential Habitat families must meet the following criteria:

Demonstrate a need for housing that might be created by overcrowding or an inability to pay for current repairs or improved housing.

Be willing to invest in hundreds of hours of volunteer labor and education requirements.

Be able to pay off an interest-free 20-year home loan. Homeowners must have minimal debt and a steady income source.

Information: 736-4454, habitatjohnsoncounty.org

Freedom that comes with house priceless

The lot on a Franklin street is little more than a cement foundation surrounded by mounds of dirt.

But Brandy Shockley can envision what the cozy home will look like. Plants will fill the front and side gardens. More flowers will adorn the backyard, where her two little girls will run, tumble and play.

After years of living in apartments and with her parents, Shockley soon will have a home that she and her daughters can call their own. The family has partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County to build and buy a home.

They’ll have rooms of their own, a backyard to play in and a front porch to lounge on to greet neighbors.

The house won’t be done until mid-

October. But for Shockley, after waiting so long, the process of turning it into a home already has started.

“The fact knowing that we’ll have a stable home to live in, it’s a chance to get a home for my children,” she said.

The family had been living in a two-room apartment until February, when Shockley’s lease ran out. Her parents offered to let her, her 7-year-old daughter Addison Shockley and 3-year-old daughter Shyann Ratliff move in to allow them to save money before moving into the house.

The situation was cramped, as family members had to share beds, crash on couches or sleep wherever space existed.

But living at home has its advantages. Her parents can see their granddaughters every day, serving as baby sitters while Shockley works as a nurse at Johnson Memorial Hospital.

“It’s been rough at times. But it’s also been nice, letting us stay with them. We’ve had our moments, but it’s well worth it,” Shockley said.

Making the situation easier has been knowing that the Shockleys would be moving into their own house in a matter of months. Shockley has been involved with Habitat for Humanity for the past two years, going through the approval process and putting in volunteer hours while patiently waiting for her house to be built.

Shockley heard about Habitat for Humanity through an aunt, who thought it would be a good way for her to get a home.

She started the process in 2011, filling out an application and meeting with Habitat for Humanity leadership to determine her eligibility in the program. Lee Ann Wilbur, executive director for Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County, and other board members came to their apartment to assess their current living situation.

They went through financial records to ensure Shockley wasn’t in substantial debt and to make certain she could afford a house.

From there, all of their information was presented to the Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County board. Shockley was approved to be a partner family last year.

“She went through the process and qualified, so she was in the pipeline. But when we decided to do an all-women’s build, her story seemed to really fit. A single mom and two little girls, that fit right into the little niche we were trying to fill,” Wilbur said.

Before getting her own home, Shockley had work to do. She had to attend a series of classes that helped with financial planning, basic home maintenance and home ownership.

She put in 100 volunteer hours working for Center Grove Elementary School and the Johnson County Humane Society. Another 100 hours will be spent building her own home with the Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

To be ready for construction, Shockley and the other women participating in this all-women’s build attended a safety class put on by Lowe’s. They learned to handle lumber, basic tools and power saws and how to navigate a building site without getting hurt.

“I know nothing about building a house. So I’m excited, but I’m nervous. I don’t want to mess up,” she said. “But building the house myself, I’ll know how to fix anything if something breaks.”

The mortgage on the house, being built on West Adams Street, is $73,000. Her monthly payments will be $450, including the mortgage, property tax and homeowners insurance.

That’s manageable, considering her apartment rent was $620, Shockley said.

The house will have a front porch that looks out over the sidewalk on Adams Street. A narrow alley borders the backyard and stretches back to a small stand of trees. Shockley envisions a privacy fence in the future, so Addison and Shyann can run free.

Inside, the 1,100-square-foot home will have three bedrooms giving Addison and Shyann each their own place to stay. A kitchen, living room and full bathroom will be included in the structure.

In her down time, Shockley has spent hours on the social networking website Pinterest, getting decorating and landscaping ideas. She knows it will be years before the look of the house is exactly what she wants. But that hasn’t tempered her excitement to get started.

“It’s a house, not an apartment. We’re not living above somebody, where I have to tell the girls to be quiet and not run. They can run and play in the house as they feel,” she said. “This will be ours.”

Edinburgh house adds stability for mother, daughters

The new house near downtown Edinburgh was just part of Laura DeLoach’s life transformation.

The former assistant in a nursing home is now an occupational therapist at Kindred Transitional Care and Rehab. She has an associate’s degree from Brown Mackie College.

And for the first time in her life, she has a home all of her own to raise her family.

DeLoach and her two daughters have spent the past two years turning the house they bought into their own home. They’ve turned the backyard into a personal oasis, with a swimming pool, fire pit and covered porch.

Even before they moved in, 14-year-old Maci Williamson and 11-year-old Karle Williamson were able to choose the colors of their own room. The house was built through Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County, and DeLoach credits the organization with helping to turn her life around.

“It’s been busy — a lot of upkeep and work. But it’s been worth it,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to get a house without Habitat.”

The family had been living with DeLoach’s parents before getting involved in Habitat for Humanity. They all stayed together in a single room, with DeLoach sleeping in a queen bed in one corner and Maci and Karle in bunk beds next to her.

For two years, they endured while DeLoach went to class to earn her degree in occupational therapy. During this time, the family’s pastor suggested applying to Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County.

The situation was perfect for DeLoach, who was in the middle of a career change and slowly becoming more financially stable.

“With the credit I had, and trying to build my credit back up, I never would have been approved to get a loan for a house otherwise,” she said.

By mid-September 2011, the house was complete and the DeLoach family could move in. They went to work tweaking and decorating in a way they thought best suited their personalities.

When discussing paint, DeLoach’s girls made bold choices with their color palette.

Maci chose a vibrant purple to offset her posters and decorations, while Karle went with a rainbow theme highlighted with a bright yellow. Both girls used glitter mixed in with the paint to add a unique touch to what they’re doing.

DeLoach and her father have installed a privacy fence, and she has spent hours landscaping around the house, trimming trees and weeding the gardens.

Considering the benefits that she has received from Habitat for Humanity, it was important to DeLoach to reach out to others in need of housing, just like she had been.

She will be volunteering on the next build, the all-women’s construction project in Franklin.

“It’s such a neat experience to get in there and work. I love my job because I love to help people, and this is the same type of thing. I know what I went through to get this house, I want to let someone else experience this,” she said.

Upkeep worth development of house

From floor to ceiling, the entire wall was covered in inspirational sayings.

Tami Koehl painted each one by hand, cutting out individual letters as stencils and making each phrase in a unique font.

The decoration was something she had dreamed of doing for years as she lived in an apartment. Only when she gained her own house through Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County was she able to follow through.

Since they moved into the house in 2010, Koehl and her three children — Arthur, 16, Jaylen, 14 and Theodore, 10 — have lived the ups and occasional downs that home-ownership can bring. They’ve had the chance to decorate the way they want and enjoy a spacious suburban yard.

They’ve also had to mow that lawn, trim back weeds and take care of minor repairs themselves.

Owning a home is an entirely different situation than renting an apartment, Koehl said. But she couldn’t think of a more positive development to affect her family.

“It’s meant everything, it’s done everything,” Koehl said. “That first night, it was an overwhelming sense of happiness.”

Koehl applied to be a partner family through Habitat for Humanity twice before being accepted for the program in 2009.

They would be moving from a two-bedroom apartment in Greenwood to a spacious home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The three boys were sharing a room together in the apartment, so everyone getting a room of their own was as an adjustment.

“It was a shock to them. To have their own space was strange. The youngest one wanted to stay in his brothers’ room or stay with me. But it didn’t take them very long to have their own space and enjoy it,” Koehl said.

The process of creating a home took months and even years, even if Koehl wanted to get it all done together. She had to get additional beds, dressers and other furnishings for her sons rooms.

To help the boys feel comfortable in their own rooms, she let them pick the paint to color it. Bright, vibrant shades immediately gave the house a welcoming feel.

Owning a house has brought joy to the Koehls, but as all homeowners find out, it has also provided a whole new world of upkeep and chores to maintain it.

Mowing, weeding and landscaping the yard is an ongoing battle, Koehl said.

The house itself has remained in good condition. Outside of the occasional leaky faucet or squeaking door, the family hasn’t had to deal with any big problems.

“We’ve been pretty lucky inside. It’s just the yard that seems to always need work,” Koehl said.

But even an abundance of household chores can’t keep the Koehls from raving about their new situation.

If Arthur, Jaylen and Theodore aren’t riding bikes up and down the streets of their Greenwood neighborhood, they’re playing basketball at the church around the corner. Neighborhood kids play ultimate Frisbee once a week and organize backyard games of football.

The only complaints are minor.

“I wish the basketball goal was closer. I wish it was at our house,” said Theodore.

Greenwood family of seven now lives comfortably

For an seven-person family, living in a two-bedroom house wasn’t going to work.

The Lyons family had outgrown the home they were renting. Even after converting a laundry room into another place to sleep, someone was crashing on a couch or an air mattress. They needed more space.

That’s when Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County stepped in to help.

Two years have passed since Matt and Emily Lyons were able to move into a five-bedroom home near Old Town Greenwood with their family.

“I didn’t know what to expect. Even when we were building, it didn’t seem real until they handed us the keys. It was overwhelming,” Matt Lyons said.

Matt and Emily Lyons have five children — Donovan and Matthew, both 8, Kaitlyn, 6, Noah, 5, and 7-month-old Lyndon. In addition, Matt Lyon’s brother, Michael, 17, also lives with the family.

Before getting involved with Habitat for Humanity, the Lyons had been living in a home they rented from Matt Lyons’ father.

The arrangement fit into their financial budget but was much too cramped for so many people.

“We were banging our heads against the wall, thinking there was something we could do,” Matt Lyons said.

Through Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County, they were able to get a 1,200-square-feet house that fit almost everyone. Even better, the 20-year interest-free mortgage is set up so that they pay about $375 per month or about $100 less than they did in their rented house.

“The kids all have their own place. My brother has his own room. It’s worked out really well,” Matt Lyons said.

Matt Lyons works in commercial property management and maintenance in Indianapolis, so taking care of a house was nothing new.

Repairing drywall, patching carpet and fixing plumbing problems are all things he was adept at. But it’s different when the place you’re fixing is your own, and you have to do everything yourself, Matt Lyons said.

So far, the family has been lucky to avoid any major repairs or problems. The only big project they’ve done so far is re-roof a small shed on the side of the house, but even that was done with materials left over from the initial house build, Matt Lyons said.

That’s good, because with five kids, including a newborn baby, the family has it’s hands full, Emily Lyons said.

The only regret they have is not being able to help more with the entire Habitat for Humanity cause. Having received their own home, it would be nice to give back and assist other families get their own home too, Matt Lyons said.

“I wish I had more time to help them now. We’ve had the baby since, and keeping up with the kids leaves very little time to help them out,” he said.

Finances not a burden anymore for Johnson County resident

Among the disarray of the unfinished bathroom, elegant brown tile had been grouted into place partially up the wall.

It would surround the bathtub and other walls of the room when the project is done. A white basin sink, which would offset the darker tile, had been disconnected and laid on its side.

Eventually, it will be a soothing, modern escape. For the time being, much work still needs to be done.

Rachael Goodwin is learning that home renovation can be messy, costly and time consuming. But even though her new bathroom is half-done, the opportunity to put her own decorating touch and improve her first house has her excited.

Without Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County, Goodwin isn’t sure she ever would have had the opportunity.

“They built the house. I want to make it my own,” she said.

In a lot of ways, Goodwin and her family — 11-year-old Colton and 14-year-old Marleah — feel like they’re just getting started making the home their own.

They moved from a small apartment to the three-bedroom home in 2008 through Habitat for Humanity of Johnson County. Soon after, Goodwin’s daughter Marleah, 9 years old at the time, was diagnosed with bone cancer in her jaw.

Surgery, radiation and reconstruction followed for much of the next two years. Goodwin essentially lived at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, only returning home for brief periods of time.

“Really, it’s been only in the last two years where things have gotten back to normal and we’ve been able to settle in,” Goodwin said. “We’re kind of just learning what normal is.”

Marleah, now 14, has been cancer-free for the past four years. The family has been able to put more time into the house to tweak it the way Goodwin wants it to be.

One of the first projects they did was replace the existing carpet with wood flooring. The sturdier material fit the Goodwin family better, with teens and dogs constantly running through, Goodwin said. The bathroom remodel is the next big project.

They’ve been able to attempt these home-repair projects due to the affordability of the Habitat for Humanity model, Goodwin said.

With a 20-year mortgage with no interest attached, she pays $305 per month, including her property tax and insurance payments.

“The one thing that I never, ever worry about is the house payment. The payment is low enough that I can always have that much around. We always have a safe place to go to,” Goodwin said.

The past five years has allowed the Goodwin family adapt to living in a neighborhood, where they can call out to friends walking down the street or riding bikes from the front porch. Their favorite time of year is mid-September, when Edinburgh has its annual fall festival.

The main concourse of the festival goes right past their house. Colton and Marleah can run around with their friends, while their mom watches them from their yard.

“I see everyone I know over those four days. I don’t even have to go looking for them; they come right here,” Goodwin said. “I love the whole town atmosphere.”

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