Wicomico Habitat on course to build six homes this year

One of the most rewarding aspects of being involved with Habitat for Humanity is witnessing the joy of a family that receives an affordable home.

“It’s terrific. It’s a dream come true for these families,” said Wicomico County’s Habitat Executive Director Molly Hilligoss.

“Habitat means hope to these people.

“And then to hear, years down the road, what they’ve been able to accomplish, how their children now have the opportunity for college and all that affordable housing provides. It’s very rewarding,” she said.

“We are giving hard-working families an opportunity they otherwise would never have because of their income. They wouldn’t be able to get a regular mortgage through a bank.  We’re offering the opportunity of home ownership.

“Some people assume these people get a home for free, but they are making a mortgage payment. They just don’t have to pay interest,” explained Hilligoss, who’s been with Habitat since February 2015.

Last year, three homes were built and this year, there will be six. The plan, Hilligoss said, is to have five completed annually by 2020. Recipients must undergo an FBI background check and be free of drug use. There can’t be any type of vile crime on their records.

One home, now under construction on Cole Circle, will have an affordable $600 per month mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance.

As wonderful as the results are, the process is expensive.

The local Habitat, opened in Wicomico County in 1987 and located on West Isabella Street, has a $700,000 annual budget. The City of Salisbury grants $72,200, in conjunction with HUD. Habitat receives no federal funding.

During its 29 years, 62 homes have been built. In Wicomico. Last year, three were sold and by end of the 2017 fiscal year, six more will be sold.

“We desperately need financial contributions from the public. The brand new construction costs are so high. If we could get another $100,000 from individuals collectively, that would really be helpful,” Hilligoss said.

Fund-raisers are planned, including Hammer and Nails in October, an event featuring a concert at Headquarters Live and opportunity to help build two sheds.

There will also be a Habitat for the Holidays luncheon and Chefs for Habitat tasting event. See www.wicomicohabitat.org for details and ticket information.

Habitat recently won $7,500 from the Dow Chemical Company, a prize for a photo contest that will be used to continue building on  Cole Circle.

Two homes are being built there and a third, at 315 Charles Street, dates back to 1920 and is being rehabilitated. All three should be finished within six months.

About $100,000 in annual income is from sales at Habitat’s ReStore, at 908 West Isabella Street, where customers can find furniture, carpet remnants, appliances and building materials that are donated.

“Building homes takes a lot of planning and fund raising,” Hilligoss said.

There are two construction managers, paid contractors and volunteers on staff. More than half the labor is done by volunteers, and more are needed. See the Web site to sign up.

Volunteers work side-by-side with partner families, hear their stories of struggle and celebration and become part of their future, Hilligoss said.

“It’s a really good feeling and it gives our volunteers a chance to learn a new skill. We need more help and we also need applicants for homes. If we can get more money coming in we can add more programs. We have 25 families on the waiting list who need repairs to their homes but we don’t have the money,” Hilligoss said.

“Folks who volunteer, it gives them a sense they are contributing to helping the family, a really hard-working family. There’s a difference between hard-working families and families that hardly work,” she said.

“We want more hard-working families. That’s who we’re helping.”

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