By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity recently broke ground on the first home built for a family displaced by last Mays devastating tornadoes. The new construction, located in Bethel Acres, will be completed in less than one month.
Joel and Bettie Spears lost their home May 19 when an EF4 roared through Bethel Acres in Pottawatomie County. The Spears, along with officials of Central Oklahoma Habitat and volunteers from Crossings Community Church joined together to begin the homebuilding project made possible through Oklahoma Habitat donations and manpower.
Bettie, a former nurse said, “Contacting Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity was the best thing we ever did. They gave us hope again. They were kind and understanding.”
Joel and Bettie are both disabled. He was injured in an industrial accident and she has lost most of her hearing, making it impossible for them to rebuild on their own.
Central Oklahoma Habitat homebuilding is also underway in Moore and Carney. They are positioned to construct as many as 400 homes over the next three to five years for families displaced by May’s tornadoes.
A nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry, Central Oklahoma Habitat provides affordable housing for hardworking families with limited income.
Ann Felton Gilliland, president and CEO of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, urges tornado-impacted families to fill out applications to determine eligibility. She says that many uninsured or underinsured people might not realize they fit the criteria for Habitat assistance.
“We are committed to helping restore normalcy for families getting their lives back together in the wake of the tornadoes,” Gilliland said. “Central Oklahoma Habitat stands ready to help and the process has never been faster or easier for those impacted by tornadoes.”
The application process has been expedited for such families. While people who receive a Habitat home typically must contribute 300 hours of “sweat equity” to the project, that figure is only 50 hours for those affected by a tornado. It takes less than a week for a family to see whether they qualify for a rebuild.
The Habitat home ownership program offers a partnership arrangement and is not a “giveaway program.”
“Our philosophy is a hand up, not a handout,’” said Gilliland. “Owing your own home means owning your future. With no interest and no money down, you can join our volunteers and staff by building your dream home,”
Central Oklahoma Habitat is also committed to the environment by building all of their new homes to LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) standards of energy efficiency.
Recently the 300th Central OK Habitat of Humanity home was built using ClimateMaster’s energy-efficient geothermal heating and cooling system. Habitat recognizes the value in connecting renewable and energy-efficient technologies with affordable housing design and construction.
Headquartered in Oklahoma City, ClimateMaster, Inc. is a subsidiary of LSB Industries, a global engineering, manufacturing, sales and service company specializing in environmental and climate control systems and products.
They also help current limited income homeowners to reduce their utility bills with their weatherization and repair program, Critical Home Repair. The program is good for the environment and helps Habitat partner families further reduce their cost of living. It is an opportunity to move from subsistence living to a more comfortable way of life.
Moreover, a rebuilt home for a tornado-affected family will also include a storm shelter.
“Thanks to ClimateMaster and its president, Dan Ellis, we are one of the most energy-efficient homebuilders in the state of Oklahoma, and among the top in the nation, saving families $700 to $800 on average per year,” said Gilliland.
Habitat homes are sold to qualifying families at cost and financed with zero percent interest mortgages. No down payment is charged, and monthly house payments are affordably based on income.
Partner families are selected based on need, willingness to partner, and ability to make monthly mortgage payments. The organization has built more than 700 new homes in central Oklahoma since 1990.
“Central Oklahoma Habitat has been a blessing,” said Bettie Spears. “We thank the Lord for all their help everyday.”
Gilliland said Habitat volunteers are eager to get to work. “Oklahomans who lost their homes in the tornadoes have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by filling out an application,” she said.
To check eligibility, call 405-232-4828 or apply online at www.cohfh.org.