Life has been anything but easy for Urbana resident Barb Brooks, who became a widow last year and whose 13-year-old son was born with cerebral palsy, a group of permanent disorders of the development of movement and posture. Instead of dwelling over these hardships, Brooks chooses to focus on the blessings in her life – such as her son, Daniel, and the fact they will be moving into a new handicap-accessible home thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County Ohio (HFHCCO).
“We have been blessed,” Brooks said. “Daniel was born at 26 weeks weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces. The first few months of his life were touch and go, but thanks to God and the doctors he placed where needed, Daniel’s life was spared. While we sometimes have to be more creative in the way we do certain things, we are grateful for every day.”
Brooks’ daily struggles with trying to maneuver a wheelchair through the tight spaces an older mobile home provides will end when HFHCCO officials on Saturday, Dec. 10, hand her the keys to 218 Harmon Ave. in Urbana – the nonprofit organization’s eighth new home build.
“It is a huge blessing to have a handicap-accessible home,” Brooks said. “I don’t think I can even fathom all the benefits this home is going to give to Daniel and myself. It will certainly make several aspects of his care much more convenient.”
To the countless volunteers who helped build the home, Brooks said a simple thank you seems “so inadequate for the immeasurable gift” they have given her and Daniel.
“Most of the volunteers have been complete strangers and yet they gave up so much so that we might have a more functional home for Daniel,” she added. “I am overwhelmed and humbled at all the kindness that has been extended to us. I could never repay everyone for all they’ve done, but I do pray that God will bless each and every one of them.”
Construction on HFHCCO’s Harmon Avenue home kicked off in March and is expected to be move-in ready following the dedication.
While the 1,200-square-foot home has many of the same characteristics as the first seven HFHCCO home builds, it has unique characteristics.
“This home is unusual for HFHCCO as it is a total handicap-accessible home for Daniel,” said Marcia Ward, volunteer executive director for HFHCCO. “We have the traditional layout only flipped with the living room/kitchen/dining room on the right as you enter, while Daniel’s bedroom (on the left) was lengthened to allow for his exercise equipment.
“Thanks to the Champaign County Board of Developmental Disabilities we have a Hoyer Lift (used to lift patients in and out of beds, wheelchairs, etc.) provided by monies made to Mrs. Brooks over several years. We also had half of Daniel’s handicap-accessible bathroom donated by an anonymous donor,” she added.
The energy efficient home, which cost the nonprofit just south of $70,000 to construct, also features a bedroom/office for Brooks, a furnace closet and a washer and dryer room.
“We want families to live in peaceful dwelling places and secure homes in places of rest,” Ward said. “We see the horror of the modern Holocaust in Syria, and we realize again how important our mission is.”
Backbone of HFHCCO
Ward doesn’t hide the fact the nonprofit wouldn’t be able to build homes for families like the Brookses without the help of people – those who volunteer time and those who donate money, supplies and home items.
“We have been blessed with more volunteers this year than ever,” she said. “We are also truly blessed with gifts in kind – items donated to us that help defray the cost of the home. We want to build a quality home, and we do not cut corners with cheap materials.
“Frank Segreti and Greg Ward are our build managers, and they are on the job for nine to 10 months on Saturdays and more to make sure all of our work is of the best quality,” Ward added.
Some of the organizations, businesses and individuals helping to make the Harmon Avenue home a reality, Ward said, include the Trinity Evangelical United Methodist Church in Upper Sandusky (built the walls and donated $1,800), Lumber Liquidators (flooring), Lowe’s (flooring) and Mike and Vicki Henson of Urbana Self Storage (kitchen cabinets).
Ward added some of Brooks’ friends donated money that allowed her to buy a stove and refrigerator of her liking, while the dishwasher, washer and dryer, and microwave were all purchased through the Brotherly Love Fund (monies raised by selling precious stone/gem necklaces made by Dayton artist and former St. Paris resident Judith Key).
“We cannot thank our community and our churches, businesses and individuals enough for the support – monetary as well as sweat equity,” Ward said.
Open house, next home build on horizon
The dedication of the HFHCCO home for the Brooks family will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at 218 Harmon Ave.
During the ceremony, members of the HFHCCO Board of Directors will speak as will Brooks. Following the home being blessed and the keys presented to Brooks, a picnic will commence.
“It is a very special day – emotional and joyous,” Ward said. “All are welcome … and we we will acknowledge all who worked in any way on the home.”
Once the dedication is complete, HFHCCO will turn its attention to its ninth new home build scheduled to take place next year at 517 S. Church St. in St. Paris.
“We are blessed beyond measure once again to have been sold very reasonably a lot with a home that must be razed in St. Paris,” Ward said. “We thank Ronald and Deborah Bair, of Cable and formerly from St. Paris, for this amazing opportunity to buy a fine lot reasonably.”
Pre-applications for the home are available in St. Paris at Jim’s Pizza Chalet and at the St. Paris United Methodist Church. They can also be picked up at the HFHCCO Restore at 955 N. Main St., Urbana.
“We will be holding an orientation meeting in February for all interested persons who might apply for the St. Paris HFHCCO home,” Ward said. “Remember these are not free homes. We hold the mortgage. They are interest free, but the homeowner makes a monthly mortgage payment. These payments go to the build we are currently constructing.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.