One family moves in, another begins work on its Habitat home

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Runnelses broke ground for their home recently, while the Baileys set up house.

As one new homeowner received the keys to her Habitat for Humanity house Sunday, another family broke ground at the property where the organization's 26th home will be built in the Cape Girardeau area.

"This is a dream come true for us," said Dustin Runnels, who with his wife, Florita and their children, Alexis and Allisen, broke ground for their Habitat home at the corner of College Street and West End Boulevard.

Runnels, who is employed by the city of Cape Girardeau, and his wife, Florita, a certified nursing assistant, have lived in rental homes since high school. They've applied for home loans in the past, but have been unsuccessful.

The couple heard about the Habitat for Humanity organization about a year ago.

"The Habitat organization is perfect for us," Florita said. "We're just your average everyday people who needed a little boost."

People who receive homes from Habitat for Humanity must be capable of paying off no-interest loans of about $250 per month for more than 20 years, as well as perform 250 hours of "sweat equity" in helping build the homes. The homeowners must also pay about $250 in insurance up front.

When the Runnels found out they were approved for a home in July, they began volunteering to build other Habitat homes. Now, they are looking forward to starting work on their home, which should be complete in March.

"We're really excited -- we're looking forward to being new homeowners," Florita said. "We've been helping out with other homes and now, finally, it's our turn."

The couple's daughters may be even more excited than their parents about the new Habitat home since they will each get their own bedroom.

"I can't wait for my own room," said 8-year-old Alexis.

The Bailey family, formerly of Southern Illinois, received the keys to their College Street Habitat for Humanity home Sunday. The family will begin moving furniture into their new house today.

"It's an early Christmas present," said Bailey, who asked that her name not be used for security reasons. "This is a great organization, and we're so thankful for it."

The Cape Girardeau Area Habitat for Humanity has set a goal of building 25 homes in the next five years. The local affiliate was formed 20 years ago and has built 25 homes in the area.

"The 25-home goal is attainable but it will be a lot of work," said Roy Jones, with the Habitat for Humanity.

"I have faith that we will be able to do this," he said. "The community has really grown in support of Habitat for Humanity over the years."

Organizations like the United Way of Southeast Missouri doubled its donation to $40,000 this year, and businesses like Buchheit's have donated building supplies for two of the last homes constructed.

"With everyone behind us, we have to now find families who are willing to make their dreams of homeownership a reality," Jones said.

People who want to live in a Habitat home must earn 25 percent to 50 percent of the median family income, which averages about $7 to $14 an hour for a family of four combined. To obtain an application for a Habitat home, contact the Cape Girardeau office at 334-9728.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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