Shovel to shingles… miracles do happen & we pay it forward

A few years ago a little boy in a movie shared the giving ahead concept that has become known as “Pay it Forward.” A bittersweet movie with an eternal message, it hit home with individuals and families alike. Pay it forward has become a common phrase with a common understanding.

For many years before this movie made the concept a household phrase, a group of caring, quiet, humble individuals has been living the philosophy year after year.

This year, starting on June 18, in fact, year 10 will celebrate the pay-it-forward philosophy of Habitat for Humanity as the Barrie area’s 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th homes will be launched.

Six homes for six families in a condo community on Yonge St. Six homes that will join eight others to create living equity for their shareholder families. After nine years, Habitat for Humanity has its first executive director, a staff person with a strong voice, respected principles and unparalleled ability to network within the “development” community.

Mandy Hillyard is excited about the 2005 “build” for Habitat for Humanity Huronia. “We¹re doing six townhomes this year, our most ambitious attempt,” says Mandy. Habitat has built a number of single family homes and two clusters of semi-detached homes in the past few years.

“We came across this property that is zoned RM2 (perfect for townhomes) and thanks to the creativity of Rick Jones (of the Jones Group), Engineer John Lackey and Architects Michael McKnight and Steve Sharron these units will be four facing two and will form a solid residential knot next to the Barrington Retirement Home on Yonge St near Little Ave. Richard Austin, owner of the property, made it possible for Habitat to acquire the land at an affordable cost and hundreds of people will come together to make it happen. Jim Hosick, an Innisfil planner and Kerry Judges, the build chairperson all bring specific expertise to the project.

Mandy calls it habitat-itus. And it’s contagious. She’s excited about Habitat’s new logo, launched nationally just weeks ago.

With shovel turning in June, and donated energy and materials occurring all summer, the plan is for six families to move into six homes before Thanksgiving. Families are currently being interviewed to become shareholders in the project. Mandy is quick to point out that Habitat is not a charitable venture for improverished people.

These are solid families who’ve lived in Simcoe County at least two years. They are working families with certain incomes based on family sizes. The families each contribute at least 500 hours of work on the homes and they make a down payment for their project. Habitat then holds their mortgage, interest free, with mortgage payments set to represent no more than 30% of the monthly income.

Those mortgage payments go to pay-it-forward for the next set of homes to be built.

“We don¹t just give houses to people. Habitat holds the mortgage and the people who are selected become homeowners with mortgages,” explains Mandy. The organization has spread outside of Barrie with one home nearing completion in Port McNicoll, and a one-week building blitz happening in Collingwood in August.

She comments on the pride of ownership that comes along with the families who invest in their habitat home. “They’re excited to be part of a neighbourhood and they are partnered with a family committee for the first year as they move in and learn about home ownership problem solving. They earn their way into their home, just as you and I do.”

Mandy says many habitat families return to help build the next home the year after. “We had a volunteer show up tonight to say they were here to help in this way and that way. They were very specific about the skills they had to offer. We also had a volunteer show up who took an application to apply for a home”. And that’s the way it goes.

Many, many people volunteer to make this project a reality. Landscape architect John Bell donates his design time. A sheet metal worker is doing the ductwork with donated material. Dennis Tuck, builder, is not only a board member, but brings his expertise to the job site. Home Depot Canada this year will be the first Canadian platinum donor at $2.5 million for Habitat Canada.

Long term supporters who are in the leadership end of the project include Accountant Rychard Lardner, Teresa Habs, board chairman, and Bill Anderson, the Rotarian who mobilized to open the Re-Store here in Barrie. The Re-Store, at Brock & Lorena streets offers used and new materials at bargain prices and receives donations at the in door while selling at the out door. All revenue raised goes to support Habitat buildings.

On June 18 at 10 am, Barrie dignitaries will turn the soil to officially launch this year’s project. There will be one cheery face missing from the crowd. This year’s project is called the Kathy Irvin 10th anniversary build. Why? Because for many years Kathy served as part of the family selection committee. She interviewed people, problem-solved around who should be Habnitat families. She took her commitment back to Central United Church who served with meals, and fundraisers. She brought out her own tools and participated in construction last year. Kathy’s committee members are missing her terribly right now as final applications are received for Habitat families. Her untimely death last month has left a hole that the entire Habitat community is unable to fill. So, Kathy’s spirit is celebrated with this, the biggest Habitat project to date.

Mandy says official sod turning is a public event and anyone interested is welcome to attend.

Interested in learning more?

To this entire community of pay-it-forwarders… thank you!