“This family needs our help. What can we do?”
A friend named Sarah asked this question of Donna Detrick about a Washington Township family in need. Ed and Christine and their four children were living in a drafty farm house, and were plagued by high and rising rent, high heating bills, and high medical bills. Ed was a mason who had suffered an injury that greatly reduced his ability to do manual labor. Worst of all, Christine was diagnosed with stage four cancer and unable to work.
Donna, a counselor for the Washington Township schools, had only begun to look for ways to help when she got a call from Sarah: “You did it! They’re going to get a new home!”. Puzzled, Donna asked what her friend meant. She then learned that the Warren County Habitat for Humanity office had contacted the family to assess their qualifications as a partner family. This could lead to a lower cost Habitat home. Ed had applied months earlier, and if they could qualify, it meant much needed financial relief for the family.
The last two hurdles to the qualification process were for the family to contribute the hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” required by Habitat bylaws, and to produce the down payment required for the no-interest Habitat mortgage. Volunteers began directing delivery jobs and home improvement projects to Ed. Christine stuffed envelopes for the Habitat office. Soon, they were deemed qualified and officially recognized as a Habitat “partner family”.
There was an urgent need to complete the home as soon as possible, given Christine’s medical condition. Stretching themselves, the Habitat team searched for more volunteers and was able to speed up construction by adding a second and third day each week. As news of the family’s plight spread, local construction businesses donated or dramatically discounted their services for heating, septic and electrical systems. On their way to realizing their dream, however, the family and the Habitat team were hit with a stark reality – there were no more building funds; construction would have to stop in January.
Donna Detrick reached out to her friends and family with a plea to help fund the construction. They raised some funds, but it was not nearly enough. Joel, a friend of Donna’s husband, reached out to WRNJ radio station in Hackettstown, and they pledged to help in any way they could. Donna and others thus began a three-day “radio-thon” for the benefit of the family. The at-large community responded by donating over $60,000 to the cause. The teams were then able to resume construction.
Finally, in April, the home was ready for dedication and turnover to Ed, Christine and the children. Christine, however, was in the hospital and unable to attend the ceremony. The Habitat team assembled a scrapbook of pictures for her so she could share in the occasion. Tragically, Christine passed away that evening. She was, however, secure in the knowledge that the community had supported her family in their time of need.
That the family was able to meet all requirements and achieve their goal at such a challenging time is testament to their strength, their faith, and their determination. The list of people and companies that helped them in this achievement is long. It includes, among others, dozens of construction and fundraising volunteers, local contractors, local businesses and a local church group. It also includes a regional bank, a major multinational pharmaceutical company, a radio station, and a teachers’ group … an extended community offering a hand-up.