GAIL WHITE Habitat volunteers get a home of their own
"Last night, a little bunny ran across our driveway and into our yard," exclaims excited 6-year-old Joy Rouse of Salem. "We have thousands of bunnies."
"Follow me," says Joy's 11-year-old brother, Josiah. "This is awesome!"
He climbs to the top of the stairs leading into the house. Instead of going inside, he straddles the railing and slides down to the bottom. A huge, proud smile covers his face as he lands.
Joy and Josiah's delight is shared by their two other brothers, Joshua, 10, and Jeremiah, 16, and their oldest sister, Jessica, 18.
For the first time, the bunnies they see are running across their yard and the railing they slide down is their railing. This new home in Salem is theirs, complete with the Rouse name on the front.
Michael and Christine Rouse, the parents of these five "roused" siblings are, perhaps, the most thrilled of all.
"We have rented for 20 years," Chris shares.
Raising a family of five children, money for a down payment on a home went into stomachs, not the bank.
Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, the Rouse clan now has a home of its own.
"We applied for a Habitat home once, but we were turned down," Mike explains. The household didn't make enough money.
"Didn't make enough?" I ask, a bit confused.
"Habitat wants to help people who are in need," Chris explains.
"But they have to be able to take care of the place," Mike adds.
Shortly after their first application was denied, Mike began working for 717 Credit Union. He applied again, and they began volunteering at Habitat construction sites.
A couple applying for a Habitat home must volunteer 100 hours before they can be approved to receive a home.
As Mike and Chris approached their 100 hours, they received official notice that the next Habitat home would be theirs.
"We had decided that even if we did not receive a home, we were going to keep volunteering," Chris says. "It is such a cool thing. It changes somebody's life."
She speaks from experience. On June 16, Father's Day, the Rouses' lives were changed as the Habitat for Humanity home was dedicated.
The family moved in to its new home the beginning of July.
Walking through the Rouse home, I notice the bright colors of the walls.
"When you rent, the walls are always white," she explains. "I wanted color."
Stipulations of Habitat require white walls. The Rouses worked on their own to personalize the interior.
Chris spent a great deal of time on the children's bedrooms.
"They have never had their own bedrooms," she explains.
Jessica wanted dark blue walls with a chair rail, striped blue and white underneath. She will enjoy her own room for a short time as she will be leaving for college in the fall. Josh will inherit her blue walls.
Jeremiah wanted his walls kept white. Posters will be his color.
Josiah has a sports border placed waist high in his room. Underneath, his walls are striped blue, green and yellow.
Sweet, little Joy wanted a butterfly border for her room. Chris found a print. "It was so expensive," she says. "Mike said, 'Just do it.'"
The 6-year-old now has powder blue walls with clouds painted on them and a border of butterflies that look like they will take flight.
"She plays in here for hours," Chris said, smiling.
Though they have lived in their house only a few weeks, there is an age-old feel of home.
"I'm never moving again!" Chris exclaims.
The Rouses have spent more than 800 hours volunteering for Habitat, working on their house and others.
They are committed to continuing with the organization.
They want more families to know the joy of bunnies running through the yard and railings to slide down.