Habitat pounds nails on fourth home

MIDDLEBURY — A single mom working hard just to keep four young children clothed and fed, Jill Smith never held on to much hope of owning her own house. It was a dream that occasionally floated through her head as she and her active brood made a temporary home in the basement of a friend’s house.
Come April, though, Smith and her children will be moving up from a basement and into a home of their own, thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Addison County. The home is currently under construction on Weybridge Street in Middlebury, on a lot adjacent to the new Otter View Park. The raised-ranch, three-bedroom home will give Smith, 27, and her children, ages 10 and younger, ample room to live, play and make memories together.
She’s grateful to her friend for the shelter she has been given, but knows she needs to make a change.
“It will be a major improvement,” Smith said during a brief break between a double-shift at a local restaurant. “There’s no way I would have been able to get a loan from a bank without help.”
Smith was one of “eight strong candidates” that Habitat evaluated for the Weybridge Street home, according to the organization’s president, Kristen Cram, who noted this will be Habitat’s sixth project in the county.
“She is a single mom, is hardworking and has several children,” Cram said of what helped establish Smith as the frontrunner. Habitat officials also determined that Smith would be able to pay back the interest-free mortgage on the home, the final cost of which is greatly reduced due to volunteer labor and donated materials. Smith is a self-described “gopher” at the site, hunting down supplies and equipment for the eight to 10 volunteers who routinely show up on workdays to make the home a reality. Habitat home recipients are required to put some “sweat equity” into the construction process.
Smith is only too happy to put in the work on the home, for which she applied last January. Habitat officials contacted Smith in May to tell her she was in contention.
Her dream finally came true in late June, when she received word she had been selected.
“I cried a lot,” Smith, still emotional about her good fortune, said of her reaction to hearing the news.
Habitat purchased the building lot for $40,000 from the Middlebury Area Land Trust. It is one of three lots that MALT is selling to help underwrite the costs of the neighboring 16-acre Otter View Park.
A group of Middlebury College students established the local Habitat for Humanity chapter in 1995. It was incorporated in 1999. The chapter built its first house in Bristol in 2001 in Bristol, followed by a home in Middlebury in 2004; a third project in Middlebury in 2006; and a fourth completed in Bristol in 2008.
The organization is seeking to raise $75,000 to complete the Weybridge Street home by next spring and allow for the purchase of another lot for a sixth project in the near future, according to Cram.
The Habitat mission is a Christian-based housing program that works in partnership with people in need of decent shelter to build simple, safe, affordable houses.
“Our goal is to build one house per year,” Cram said. “However, in order to do this we need to increase our monetary donations as well as donations of materials. We are also currently looking for affordable land for house site number six.”
Meanwhile, Smith and her children are counting the days until they’ll be able to move into their new home.
“I am extremely happy they chose me,” Smith said.
Anyone seeking more information about Habitat for Humanity of Addison County can log onto www.middlebury.net/

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