In the News 2002


First family selected for the Louisa County Habitat for Humanity

By Irene Luck
The Central Virginian

Owning a home is the dream of every American family and for one Louisa County resident, that dream is becoming more of a reality every day.
Sherry Wright and her two children, Braeden, 8 and Jasmine, 7, are the first family selected for the Louisa County Habitat for Humanity chapter’s initial building project, which is slated to begin in a few weeks. Born and raised in Louisa County, Wright is 25 years old. She lived in Texas for two years, but returned to Louisa last May.
“This means a lot to me and my children. They will be able to have their own bedrooms and we can now begin our life as a family,” Wright said. “We have been living in other people’s homes all our lives.”
Wright is saving for her down payment of $600 and is working towards accumulating her required hours of “sweat equity,” donated time on Habitat projects or other public service projects in the community. Once she reaches half the down payment and 50 hours of sweat equity, construction can begin.
Volunteering at the Louisa County Library is one way Wright has built hours. Helping out at Louisa Habitat functions such as the SongFest held on Sat., May 25 is another means for the single mother to attain hours.
She is also being trained as a volunteer coordinator through the Greater Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity so she can serve as an on-site coordinator for volunteers who are working at her home. Assisting with the adult day care and middle school program at the Betty J. Queen Intergenerational Center, located in the Louisa Industrial Air Park, is another avenue Wright is using to amass time while using her skills as a certified nursing assistant.
Employed at the Louisa Healthcare Center as a CNA until a recent back injury prevented her from continuing in her chosen field, Wright is currently seeking other employment, although she is still eligible for the Habitat program.
Wright’s home will be located on Walnut Woods Rd. near the town of Louisa. The single story residence will feature three bedrooms and one bath within the 1,056-square-foot dwelling. Rob Jones of Hale and White Construction and Mary Kranz, a local contractor, helped Wright design the home.
“I didn’t want to be right on the road, I wanted my home to be secluded,” Wright said of her desire to leave the property wooded and with a small yard.
When envisioning her home, Wright’s one desire was a porch so she could enjoy the evenings watching her children play while she relaxed. Lots of windows for light is another of Wright’s wishes.
Habitat’s goal is to eliminate poverty housing and replace it with suitable, energy efficient dwellings. Homes must also be kept within a moderate price so the mortgages are affordable.
Building energy efficient homes is one way to keep the costs down so the owners can pay the heating bill. On the wooded lot, which was donated by Ann and John Barber, former Louisa residents, Wright has chosen to leave as many of the trees as possible for privacy, shade and energy savings.
The home has been designed to face south, receiving the maximum amount of sunlight possible for winter heating yet be shaded during the hot summers with not only the trees but an extended overhang to keep cooling costs low. The house will not feature air conditioning, according to Kranz, who is serving on the construction committee.
To aid in the heating process, the outside of the home will be finished in cemplank siding, a new cement fiber board siding which is environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
Site work on the house is underway. A driveway into the property has been installed and the house site cleared. The well was slated to be dug on Tuesday afternoon and the completed plans are expected back from the architect by the end of the week, according to Kranz.
Once the plans are finalized, Kranz said the next step will be to obtain a building permit, with other necessary paperwork already approved.
The cost of the home, not including the site work, is estimated to be $40,000. Since Louisa is partnering with the Charlottesville chapter on its first home, the local organization needed to raise $35,000 with the parent chapter providing the remainder. The lot was donated along with a septic tank and much of the site work has been completed as a donation, Kranz said.
A typical Habitat house costs $60,000, said Estelle Rainsford, who is the director of chapter development for the Greater Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity.

Becoming a Habitat homeowner
Because Habitat for Humanity is the mortgage lender, the organization must follow all fair lending laws. In order for a family to be selected, an application is made and evaluated by a local selection committee. The applicant is then evaluated by the Greater Charlottesville selection committee, which has four Louisa members.
Once a family has been accepted by the Charlottesville committee, the local board of directors has the final approval since they are ultimately responsible for the family. Currently going through the process is the second family for a Louisa Habitat house. Once approved, the newest family can begin saving for the down payment and start working on its sweat equity by helping on the first home.
A continual process, payments from the first home are used to build additional homes. Rainsford hopes to begin construction on the second Louisa County home in 2003 and complete the third house before the end of next year. Fundraising efforts are already underway for houses two and three, according to Rainsford, and include a barn/yard sale later this month. A bird house building contest will be held at the Louisa County Agricultural Fair in August with the bird houses to be auctioned off. A golf tournament is being planned for the fall.
“I really thank Estelle for sticking by me and working with me to get my own home,” Wright said. “I thank God we were the first family picked and are excited about setting the example.”
Volunteers are needed to provide mechanical trades to the home, including plumbing, electrical and heating and air. Anyone wishing to donate a few hours or a Saturday is asked to contact Fred Richardson at (804) 556-3994.

How the Louisa chapter got started
In March of 2001, an informational meeting on beginning a local Habitat chapter was held. Rainsford, who was working with the Greater Charlottesville chapter, started seeking volunteers following the meeting and a steering committee was soon formed.
Fund-raising efforts began last summer and included a picnic, gospel sing, pancake breakfast and fund drive. In the ensuing months, selection and partnering committees were formed, along with an advisory board and a candidate for the first house sought.
Construction crews for the first house have been formed and include Kranz, James Duerson, Jones and David James. Numerous church groups and volunteers have come forward to offer assistance and construction will soon begin.
“It has been amazing to me to see all the different contractors come forward to help. Normally, we’re in competition with each other but on this project everyone is pulling together,” Kranz said.



Female crew lends hand with Habitat house

By Deana Meredith
The Central Virginian

An all woman team of volunteer laborers recently dedicated a full Saturday laboring at the first Louisa Chapter of Habitat for Humanity home being built in Walnut Woods Subdivision, east of the town of Louisa.
A crew of approximately 16 between the ages of 30 and 63 arrived at the three-acre wooded site early on Sat., Sept. 7 to begin the job of attaching exterior siding and trim to the three bedroom dwelling.
The 1,056-square-foot single-story home is comprised of a new material known as Hardiplank, which consists of a mixture of concrete with extra fiber, resembling the look of wood.
“There have been crews steadily working every weekend from different groups,” said Estelle Rainsford, associate development director of Louisa Habitat. “This was a more varied group.”
The volunteers hailed from a variety of communities in Louisa County and from many backgrounds and ages. At the culmination of a hard day’s sweat and labor, a bond was formed between the ladies.
Led by Mary Kranz, president and owner of Cedarwood Construction in Louisa, the volunteers worked in two crews to maximize efficiency.
“They just did a great job of using everybody,” said Rainsford. “I’ve been on [some] construction sites where volunteers just stood with their hands in their pockets.”
Also assisting were Sherry Wright, who will move into the home with her two children once it is completed, and Belinda Johnson, who will be the recipient of Louisa Habitat’s second home next year.
According to Wynn Volz, a member of Louisa Habitat’s steering committee, the women volunteers set up scaffolding, checked the plumb lines and pre-drilled the siding before installing it.
A number of voluntary crews have added their skills and expertise to the project every weekend since construction began, according to Rainsford. Volunteers from Yanceyville Christian Church, Louisa K. S. Club, Bethany Christian Church, Central Virginia Assembly of God, Twin Oaks community, Elk Creek Baptist Church, Mineral United Methodist Church and others were among the participants.
Construction on the home has steadily progressed over the course of the year resulting in the completion of the foundation, framing, siding, roofing, window installation and electricity and plumbing rough-ins. The rough-in inspections were scheduled to occur this week.
Once the rough-ins have been approved, work will commence on the insulation, exterior painting, interior drywall installation, finishing and painting, as well as the cabinets, trim and installation of appliances.
The home is built with a post and beam foundation, rather than average block and mortar foundations typically prevalent in Central Virginia. The dwelling contains three bedrooms, a bath, living room, dining room and kitchen, as well as a laundry room and porch.
Rainsford said she believes the house could be completed by December and plans to schedule a dedication at that time.
By the time Wright’s home is completed at the end of this year, approximately 500 volunteers will have made a contribution of either time or money.
To qualify to own a Habitat home, candidates must meet certain financial criteria. After paying a $5 fee, a credit report is ordered and reviewed. Families have an opportunity to explain questionable items such as gaps in employment history or poor credit history.
Once approved, the selected family is provided an interest free mortgage. Mortgage payments are typically no more than 21 percent of the family’s gross income and loan terms depend upon their ability to pay.
The size of the approved home is dependent upon the number of persons who will reside in the house. A standard three bedroom home within the Habitat program is roughly 1,050 square feet.
Selected Habitat families are required to save $1,250 and must invest a designated number of sweat equity hours in other Habitat projects before construction can begin on their own home. Single parents must contribute 200 hours, and 100 hours are required for each additional adult in a proposed household.
The next informational meeting is scheduled for Tues., Oct. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Louisa County Public Library on Davis Hwy. between the Louisa County High and Middle Schools.
Interested persons can complete a short application, which a member of the family selection committee will review while the applicant waits. If the information provided on the application meets basic eligibility requirements, the applicant will be provided the second part of the form.
Applicants bring pay stubs from the past two months; proof of TANF, child support, food stamps, disability, social security or retirement benefits; and federal income tax returns for the last two years, with W-2 forms.
Prospective Habitat homeowners should provide bank statements for the last two months, including checking and savings accounts; utility bills for the past two months; the latest credit card statements; and any outstanding medical bills.
Louisa Habitat has set a goal of raising $100,000 to finance the construction of two houses next year, and has mailed a letter to local churches asking that they consider the program while planning their budgets this year.
There is a continued need for both skilled and unskilled volunteers in order to create a labor pool from which Habitat can draw upon when seeking assistance from individuals with specific talents as needed.
A volunteer crew comprised of North Anna Power Station employees is scheduled to work at the site this Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. Dominion Virginia Power donated $10,000 to Habitat in January.
To learn more about how to help with the Louisa Habitat for Humanity, contact Estelle Rainsford at (434) 293-9066 or (540) 967-0486, or send an e-mail to: All contributions are tax deductible.



Louisa Habitat for Humanity builds first home
A new home for the Wright family in the Walnut Woods subdivision

By Deana Meredith
The Central Virginian

After more than a year of planning and fund raising, the Louisa Chapter of Habitat for Humanity broke ground on its first house on Saturday morning. Over 30 volunteers attended the event, along with future homeowner Sherry Wright and her two children, Braeden and Jasmine.
“I was excited the whole day. It was really neat to watch them work together,” said Wright. “I was really blown away. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Wright remained at the heavily wooded construction site in the Walnut Woods Subdivision east of the town of Louisa until about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, and helped wherever she could as a volunteer crew built the foundation of her new home. The lot was donated by Ann and John Barber, former Louisa County residents.
The 1,056-square-foot home will feature three bedrooms, a bath, living room, kitchen and dining room, a laundry area and a porch. The exterior design calls for a post and beam foundation, rather than the typical block and mortar foundations found in Central Virginia.
Fred Richardson, a local businessman who is assisting with the project, said it is possible that Habitat will change to a block foundation for the next Habitat house if the organization isn’t able to obtain the posts at no cost.
Wright is looking forward to picking out the interior colors for her house, and has had a chance to compare siding options. She hopes to move into her new home as soon as possible. The children are also excited. “
“They love it,” she said.
Mary Kranz, president and owner of Cedarwood Construction in Louisa, expects it may take up to six months to finish the project. The group is following a prepared schedule to help guide them during the process.
“They [the crew] worked like little beavers and they got a lot done,” said Kranz. “The posts are in and most of the beams. The next step is framing the floor system.”
Kranz said that there are a surprising number of men and women helping who have construction experience, but inexperienced aid is also welcome. According to Richardson, there is a need for electricians, plumbers and sheetrock finishers to lend their expertise on this and upcoming projects.
On Saturday, the crew called it a day at about 3:30 p.m., but plans to be back at work at 8 a.m. again this Saturday, ready to finish the floor system and install the skirting using pressure treated decking boards.
A typical Habitat house averages about $60,000. However, Wright’s home, excluding site preparation, is estimated to cost $40,000.
Since the Louisa chapter is partnering with the Charlottesville Chapter of Habitat for Humanity for its first home, the local group needed to generate $35,000 in donations. The Charlotteville group will provide the balance.
To learn more about Louisa Habitat for Humanity, to contribute funds or volunteer assistance, call (540) 967-3438 or (434) 293-9066. Potential electricians, plumbers and drywall finishers should contact Richardson at (804) 556-3994 or e-mail:



Louisa Habitat for Humanity Advisory Board

By Deana Meredith
The Central Virginian

The newly appointed Louisa County Habitat for Humanity Advisory Board held its inaugural meeting on Tues., June 4 to learn about its role within the organization. The group met in the Louisa County Library meeting room to hear from steering committee members.
The mission of the advisory board will be to promote LCHH through its network of contacts, set up corporation or organization challenges, matches or in-kind donations. Also, the advisors are tasked with providing ideas for fund raising, acquiring land, advertising, locating partner families and encouraging church involvement.
Estelle Rainsford, Habitat’s development director, told the assemblage that the group’s primary goal is to eliminate poverty housing by bringing volunteers and families together to pool resources and build homes.
“Volunteering with Habitat is a richly rewarding experience,” said Rainsford. “People of all beliefs and backgrounds find in Habitat the means of putting faith and love into action.”
Jim Wolf, steering committee chairman, explained the evolution of LCHH, which began one year ago.
“Last summer, when a small group of us first met with Estelle Rainsford, we had no money—zero. Since that meeting at MJ’s [Country Cooking Restaurant in Louisa] last summer, we have raised over $60,000 in cash and other donations.”
The organization has also received a donation of property, located on Chalk Level Rd., where it will build its first Habitat home for a young mother and her two children.
Despite the cash and property donations, Wolf believes that LCHH has accomplished much more through the connections it has made within the community and a greater public awareness of substandard housing in the county.
“We found that the people of Louisa want to do what they can to help eliminate that problem,” he said.
According to Wolf, over 100 persons have offered to help with various aspects of the project, over a dozen contractors have agreed to help with project management, 22 of the area’s 103 churches have joined the mission, and 10 companies have contributed significant amounts of money. Also, local government officials have expressed support of the organization.
“More than 20 of you, among the community’s most influential people, have agreed to serve on our advisory board, to provide guidance and leadership as your skills and experience permit,” he said. “We have the money, we have the land, and we have our first partner family. We stand ready to break ground in July for the first Louisa County Habitat for Humanity house.”
Wolf anticipates that the organization will have selected two more partner families by the time the first home is underway, and expects the houses to be built by next year.
“We’re making good progress. Our mission is drawing support from across the board,” said Wolf. “We have, in one short year, laid the foundation to build not just one house, but to build an organization which will build many houses for many years to come.”
Mary Kranz, head of the building committee, said that LCHH’s strategy is to create as many successful homeowners as possible, and balancing quality and quantity.
“Finding the line between quantity and quality is never easy,” she said, “but a house that is so cheaply built that it won’t outlast the mortgage payments is certainly on the wrong side of the line. Similarly, a house that is expensive to heat and cool is on the wrong side of the line.”
According to Kranz, Habitat International doesn’t dictate home plans or methods to its affiliates, other than square footage, number of bathrooms and requiring a covered entryway. Beyond that, she said, Habitat International does provide advice, books of plans which other affiliates have used, and a forum to exchange ideas on how to build better and cheaper with volunteer labor.
“Each affiliate decides for itself what to use of that information,” she said.
In addition, it has been found that building a home which features low utility bills is key to creating a successful homeowner.
“How much good is it going to do someone to have a manageable mortgage payment and then have a heating bill he or she can’t afford?” she asked. “So, figuring out how to build energy efficient housing has become a priority at Habitat International.”
The Louisa Building Committee plans to construct a home that is inexpensive to operate, by providing more insulation, sealing and taking advantage of natural heating, cooling, shade and sunlight.
“Louisa is in an ideal position for this, because we are just starting,” said Kranz. “We are not already entrenched in ways of doing things that nobody wants to change.”
The cost to build energy efficient housing will add $1,000 to the construction price of the home, which Kranz intends to fund by raising separate monies. She plans to network among groups and individuals who are specifically concerned with energy issues.
“Habitat is an excellent showplace for energy saving ideas, with hundreds of volunteers involved in the process, and the homeowner bragging to her friends about how low her bills are,” said Kranz.
As part of the new campaign to raise awareness about energy efficiency, Habitat International has organized a “Green Team,” which will be comprised of at least one board member from each affiliate.
Habitat for Humanity’s success lies with the organization’s uncanny ability to turn volunteers into donors or fund-raisers.
“In fact, the model is so successful, that it is the only organization that I can think of that has folks who become contributors just so that they can have the opportunity to help build,” said Rainsford. “This happens all the time.”
Donations are placed into a revolving fund so that Habitat for Humanity can build more houses. Rainsford explained to the advisory board that Louisa County Habitat operates as a chapter of the Greater Charlottesville affiliate, which has a relationship with Habitat International in Americus.
“Our relationship with Charlott-esville means that we, as a chapter, have no concerns regarding liability or other legal matters,” said Rainsford. “We have been able to concentrate our efforts on raising money and recruiting volunteers.”
Another benefit of Louisa’s relationship with Charlottesville’s Habitat for Humanity, is that Louisa doesn’t have to pay for administrative assistance and guidance.
The Greater Charlottesville Habitat for Humanity was established in 1990, and after a slow start, the organization was incorporated a year later and dedicated its first house in 1992.
In 1998, Charlottesville Habitat was building two houses per year, but now average nine houses per year, with 30 completed to date. Rainsford attributed the success to Overton McGehee, who joined GCHH in 1999 and turned the program around after encouraging churches and businesses to participate.
“It was Overton’s passion and vision that led me to help bring Habitat’s mission to Louisa County,” she said. “So, you see, when you’ve been around Habitat for a while, and you hear all the success stories, you really start to believe that it can be done. The need is here and so are the resources and volunteers. We can do it—one house, one family at a time.”
For additional information about LCHH, call (540) 967-3438 or (434) 293-9066 to contact steering or advisory committee members.

Advisory Board
The Louisa County Habitat for Humanity Advisory Board is comprised of: Dean Agee, Hunter Bowles, Kay Brindle, Henry Childs, Mary Lou Dickinson, G. B. “Budgie” Duke, Rae Ely, Wellesley Harkrader, Annie Holland, Dave Jeck, Bobby Lee Johnson, Ray Lacy, Larry Lewis, Nancy Pleasants, Dicky Purcell, John Purcell, Olivia Ryan, Rev. Charles Sims, Dr. Al Southall, Lewis Stephens and John Whitlock.



Dominion gives $10,000 donation to Louisa Habitat for Humanity

By Deana Meredith
The Central Virginian

The Louisa Chapter of Habitat for Humanity has almost reached its financial goal in order to begin construction of its first house, with last week’s $10,000 donation from Dominion Virginia Power.
Dave Heacock, North Anna Power Station’s site vice president and Sandy Woolfolk, a senior staff assistant at NAPS and volunteer coordinator, presented a check to Louisa Habitat volunteers on Fri., Jan. 18, following a luncheon at a local restaurant.
“This has got us looking toward the second house already,” said Estelle Rainsford, associate development director of Louisa Habitat.
According to Rainsford, $43,750 is needed to begin construction on the first Habitat House in Louisa County. Of that total, 80 percent is earmarked toward construction, with the remainder targeted toward administrative costs.
To help get the project off the ground, a three-acre lot in Walnut Woods Subdivision has been donated by John and Ann Barber, and another parcel in the western end of the county could be donated in the near future. The property is being surveyed.
A family has not been selected for the first house, but a decision could be made soon, said Rainsford. She noted that it will take several months before whomever is chosen will finish investing their own “sweat equity” and a project can be started on their behalf.
Habitat families are required to save $1,250 and invest a certain number of sweat equity hours in surrounding counties’ Habitat projects before construction can commence on their own home. Single parents must donate 200 hours, while an additional 100 hours is mandatory from each other adult in a proposed household.
“As soon as we finish with this current pool of applicants, we will have another informational meeting,” said Rainsford.
All prospective applicants must attend an informational meeting. The next meeting has been scheduled for Sat., Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. at Louisa County Library. Anyone interested in attending should call (540) 967-0486 to find out what material they should bring with them to assist with the application process.
At the meeting, prospective homeowners will learn how the Habitat for Humanity program works, fill out the first part of an application and determine whether they qualify financially. If a family qualifies for the income guidelines, they are encouraged to fill out the second part of the application and are given a financial interview appointment.
During the financial interview, applicants are asked to pay $5 so that Habitat can pull a credit record, and families have an opportunity to explain questionable items on the report such as gaps in employment history or poor credit history. If everything is in order, Rainsford said, a home visit is scheduled to determine if the family meets the criteria.
“We want to help people in substandard housing,” she said.
Once a family has been approved for a Habitat for Humanity house, they are given an interest-free mortgage. House payments are generally no more than 21 percent of a family’s gross income and loan terms depend on their ability to pay.
The size of the home depends on the number of family members who will live in the house, according to Rainsford. A standard three-bedroom home within the Habitat program is typically built at 1,050 square feet.
In presenting the check to Rainsford and Wynn Volz, who is on the Habitat’s steering and fundraising committee, Heacock expressed his enthusiasm for the project. Heacock has been involved in the construction phase of several Habitat for Humanity houses in the Richmond area.
“It’s a great cause,” he said. “You’re helping them to start their own life.”
According to Woolfolk and Heacock, a large number of North Anna Power Station employees are eagerly waiting to assist in the construction of Louisa Habitat’s first house. There are 300 North Anna Power station employees who reside in Louisa County who can provide eight hours of community service during their normal workday shifts. Dominion Virginia Power compensates its staff for donating their time to the community.
“We like to give to a new and enthusiastic organization,” said Heacock.
The Louisa Habitat for Humanity is still seeking donations. Anyone wishing to send a contribution are asked to mail it to: Louisa County Habitat for Humanity, P. O. Box 1179, Louisa, Va., 23093. To offer materials or labor, call (540) 967-0486.



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