First family selected for the Louisa County Habitat
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 chapters
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 peoples 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
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
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.
Wrights 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 didnt 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, Wrights 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 Wrights wishes.
Habitats 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
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)
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, were in competition with each
other but on this project everyone is pulling together, Kranz
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
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 days
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.
Ive 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 Habitats second home next year.
According to Wynn Volz, a member of Louisa Habitats 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 Wrights 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 familys
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
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
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: email@example.com. All contributions are tax deductible.
Louisa Habitat for Humanity builds first home
A new home for the Wright family in the Walnut
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
I was excited the whole day. It was really neat to watch them
work together, said Wright. I was really blown away. Ive
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 isnt 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
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
A typical Habitat house averages about $60,000. However, Wrights
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, Habitats development director, told the assemblage
that the groups primary goal is to eliminate poverty housing by
bringing volunteers and families together to pool resources and build
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 moneyzero. Since that meeting at MJs [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
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 areas 103 churches have joined
the mission, and 10 companies have contributed significant amounts of
money. Also, local government officials have expressed support of the
More than 20 of you, among the communitys 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.
Were 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 LCHHs 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 wont
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 doesnt 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,
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 cant 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 Humanitys success lies with the organizations
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 Louisas relationship with Charlottesvilles
Habitat for Humanity, is that Louisa doesnt 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
It was Overtons passion and vision that led me to help bring
Habitats mission to Louisa County, she said. So, you
see, when youve 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 itone 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.
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
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 weeks $10,000 donation from Dominion Virginia
Dave Heacock, North Anna Power Stations 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
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
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 familys 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 Habitats
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.
Its a great cause, he said. Youre 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 Habitats 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
We like to give to a new and enthusiastic organization,
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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