By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- "It's a chance to become a homeowner and raise my girls in a nice neighborhood," said LeTonya Whipple, Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning County's newest partner-owner.
Whipple, a graduate of the Potters Wheel program and a computer skills instructor there since 1995, said the Habitat home is affordable, making it possible for her to buy now rather than rent and try to save money to buy later.
Whipple said it was a very emotional time for her when Mahoning County Habitat for Humanity broke ground for her new home Tuesday morning at 2928 Ridley Ave. It is Mahoning County Habitat's eighth new home.
The building site is off Jacobs Road about 1/4 mile north of McKelvey Lake on Youngstown's East Side.
Habitat for Humanity, an all-volunteer organization, raises money for and builds homes for low-income working people. Habitat home owners are called partner-owners because, while they own the home, Habitat holds the mortgage until it is paid.
Whipple, a single mother with three children, studied computer information at YSU for three quarters in 1995, but had to quit because of finances. Whipple said Tuesday she plans to return to college when her financial situation allows.
Whipple has already done 100 of the 350 hours of sweat equity that partner-owners are required to put into their new homes, said William Farragher, former president of Mahoning County Habitat. She has also attended a number of classes, sponsored by Habitat, on home repair and maintenance and learned about skills such as repairing holes in the drywall, and fixing toilets and light fixtures.
Mahoning County Habitat homes are about 1,100 square feet and built on a slab. This one will have three bedrooms and one bath.
The slab will be prepared, and the entire home will be built June 1 by a work party of 40 to 50 volunteers. The house is to be dedicated Aug. 13, Farragher said.
Besides Habitat for Humanity volunteers, there will be a crew of workers from General Motors in Lordstown and several supervisory personnel from Becker Builders in Struthers, who will oversee construction.
Nehemiah Builders, composed of 35 local churches that support Habitat, will provide volunteers and food at the work site, and will work toward raising the additional $5,000 needed to finish the house.
For the first time, all of the code work, such as foundation, electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilating, will be done by members of the building trades apprentice program members at no cost. In the past, only the electrical trade union participated, Farragher said.
Also, Farragher said, inmates of the Federal Corrections Institution at Elkton in Columbiana County will fabricate the exterior and interior wall panels with materials supplied by Habitat.
Major funding for the home, $22,000, was raised by the Leadership Mahoning Valley Class of 2001, which is also providing volunteer workers.
FirstEnergy, of which Ohio Edison Co. is a part, provided $8,000 for the house through FirstEnergy's $3.3 million gift to Habitat for Humanity International.
Habitat homes have a market value of $35,000 when they are built. But, because the value jumps about $10,000 as soon as it is occupied, Habitat holds a second mortgage and first right of refusal to discourage selling during the 15-year life of the mortgage.
During that period, Whipple will pay $250 per month, $50 of which will be put into an escrow account for taxes and insurance, and $200 of which will be applied to the equity of the home.
Mahoning County Habitat was formed in 1989 by a United Church of Christ pastor, the Rev. Paul Carpenter. Since that time, Habitat has built new or rehabilitated 15 homes. It is governed by a volunteer board of directors, has no paid employees, and receives no public money.