Habitat for Humanity makes dream come true in West Chicago
For Arletta Ware, no gift can match the one she's already received -- the chance to own a home, thanks to help from Habitat for Humanity, volunteers, businesses and her own hard work.
Ware, a single mom, and her two daughters begin the new year in their new home in West Chicago, which they moved into just before Thanksgiving.
"It's been absolutely delightful," Ware said. "It's nice, warm and beautiful inside. I don't think it's really sunk in yet."
They were the third family last year to move in to the Pioneer Prairie neighborhood, a community partnership that's part of a three-year initiative to provide affordable homeownership opportunities to working families.
DuPage Habitat for Humanity's original plan called for the development of 11 single-family homes; two more lots have since been added. So far, six homes have been completed, and four of those six have been sold, said Executive Director Sarah Brachle.
The neighborhood, which should be complete this year, is a "green" community whose homes were built mostly by volunteers and supported by funding and in-kind donations from churches, individuals and corporations.
Nicor Home Services, for example, donated four high-efficiency furnaces, one of which is in the Ware home. And faith-based Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has sponsored five homes -- including the Ware house -- in DuPage County.
"In hard times like these, it is inspiring, validating and all-out wonderful to be reminded of the good in this world," Brachle said. "Hundreds of volunteers, dozens of companies and churches and the county government joined hands to provide that hand up. This kind of love in action is powerful. It's unstoppable."
The organization's fundraising campaign for Pioneer Prairie, its biggest project to that point, began in 2008 at a time when the construction and banking industries, which traditionally have provided Habitat most of its support, were hard hit, Brachle said.
"It was truly a leap of faith," she said.
But they reached the $4.4 million fundraising goal, with many construction and financial companies donating products and services. The organization also had 3,000 volunteers in 2010 who helped in areas ranging from construction to event planning.
Now Habitat is about to launch its next campaign, a community of 16 townhouses in an undisclosed location, Brachle said. Since 1995, the chapter has helped 49 families purchase homes.
This year "was a confirmation of the innate kindness of people and their desire to help," she said.
For Ware, homeownership is a dream she thought she'd never achieve. She and her daughters, 10 and 12, have lived for more than a decade in an apartment in Naperville. "It's such an accomplishment," she said of owning her first home. "It's not only the biggest investment you'll ever make, it brings stability. We don't have to move anymore."
To become a homeowner, Ware, who works at a networking company in Rosemont, underwent a rigorous process. In addition to saving for her down payment and closing costs, the program required her to log 250 hours helping to build Habitat homes, which included her own, and attend pre-homeownership classes. Now as a homeowner, Ware will pay an interest-free mortgage at a cost that is affordable for her, in addition to taxes and insurance, Brachle says.
Ware says her daughters are busy picking out colors to paint their bedrooms, in the four-bedroom, 1,700-square-foot home.
"It's true what they say," Ware said. "Good things come to those who wait."