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Columbus Habitat for Humanity-Schuyler Extension anticipates first build

July 26, 2018 GMT

Yessica Marino, a Schuyler resident and single mother of two, is one step closer to home ownership as Columbus Habitat for Humanity-Schuyler Extension celebrated the groundbreaking of her soon-to-be home on July 19.

“Every one of us deserves an adequate and affordable place to call home,” said Sheri Balak, project leader for the Schuyler Extension Steering Committee, during the ceremony. “Everyone needs a foundation to build a home.”

The vision of bridging the gap regarding home ownership began in 2015 when Claudia Lanuza, project coordinator at CHI Health Schuyler, highlighted the struggle many community members face when seeking affordable housing in the area, in particular the immigrant population.

The issue left many feeling distressed, including The Rev. Pat Norris, who formerly served at Christ United Methodist Church and The Rev. Ruth Boettcher, who previously served at St. John’s Lutheran Church, resulting in a partnership forming with the Columbus Habitat for Humanity in November 2016.

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“(Lanuza) was sharing with us about how difficult it is for people moving in from another country to come to Schuyler and all the roadblocks there are to establishing a home here,” Norris said. “And that was about the time we’re deciding ‘What can we do?’”

Since then, the organization has surveyed the area for potential homeowners and suitable grounds for the home.

“...(Marino) wants to be independent, self-reliant,” Balak said. “She has been very committed to making herself a good candidate. She’s very excited to have this opportunity.”

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in local communities nationwide and in approximately 70 countries. It works toward its vision of building affordable housing by helping Habitat homeowners build their own homes alongside volunteers. The homes are mainly paid through sweat equity, which is volunteer hours put in by homeowners and it reduces the cost of the houses.

“It’s very important because we have such a diverse population here and the housing shortage has been proven through Schuyler assessment studies and we should have been building 36 units per year, and that hasn’t been happening,” Balak said. “We still are in need of adequate housing for everyone so everyone can have that home to strengthen their families.”

Balak said numerous community members signed up as volunteers during Schuyler Extension’s recruitment days on July 12 and 13 at Cobblestone Inn and Suite.

Both Jim Hake and Jim Price, construction managers for Columbus Habitat for Humanity, will be leading Schuyler Extension’s first build, which Balak anticipates to continue this weekend.

“So (Marino) is going to be here working side by side the volunteers to build her own home,” Balak said.

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Norris said the group had to jump through many hurdles to get to this point so she was glad to be able to witness the vision come to fruition during the ceremony.

“It’s terribly exciting,” she said. “When I left a year ago, I hated to leave what was happening here but had hoped and knew that God would just continue working and that’s what is happening here.”

Natasya Ong is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.