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Published: Thursday, 6/18/2009

Habitat for Humanity builds families futures


MONROE Brian and Nikki Norris had almost given up hope of ever owning their own home.

The couple were buying a house on land contract three years ago when Mr. Norris lost his job at the Ford plant in Flat Rock.

They both took minimum wage jobs to support themselves and their four children, ages 8 to 14.

Mr. Norris, 37, went to work at Burger King, earning less than half of what he did at the auto plant, and Mrs. Norris, 33, took a job making pizzas at a Monroe truck stop. The family s income went from $1,200 a week to $500 every two weeks.

Because of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, the Norris family will have a new four-bedroom home to call their own on June 22, when the organization s fourth annual blitz build ends.

They are among the families who will benefit from the 11-day construction marathon that began last Friday on three houses on Almyra Avenue on Monroe s east side.

Mr. and Mrs. Norris  new home in Monroe and another being built next door are among 312 Habitat for Humanity homes nationwide sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Mr. and Mrs. Norris new home in Monroe and another being built next door are among 312 Habitat for Humanity homes nationwide sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
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I am very excited. We are excited. The kids are excited, Mrs. Norris said about moving into the 1,200-square-foot ranch home. You have no idea,

After losing the house in Monroe, the family took up residence with Mr. Norris parents in Luna Pier. They had moved to Monroe in 2004 when Mr. Norris was transferred to Flat Rock after Ford closed his old plant in St. Louis.

That s eight people living in a two-bedroom home. It sucks, Mrs. Norris said. If it hadn t been for this house, we were headed back to Missouri, she said while taking a break with Habitat volunteers on the first day of the build blitz.

To qualify for the Habitat home, Mrs. Norris and her husband saved $1,000 for the required down payment and have the income that will allow them to repay the mortgage that carries a 0 percent interest rate.

Their monthly payments will go into a revolving fund that will be used to build other homes.

The couple also must put in 250 hours each of sweat equity on their home.

Their house and the one being built next door are sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. The Habitat for Humanity Women Build program is constructing a building blitz house at 410 Alymra.

Gregory Ulmer, services specialist for Thrivent, said the nonprofit firm donated $81,200 for each home as part of the company s four-year commitment of $125 million to Habitat.

The organization has donated money for housing projects in Guatamala and Mississippi to replace homes destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.

The Monroe houses are among the 312 nationwide Habitat homes that Thrivent is sponsoring this year. Part of our mission to give back to the community, Mr. Ulmer said.

Debora Wykes, executive director of the local Habitat organization, said about 1,000 volunteers were expected to be working at the three sites, some working a few days and others showing up every day.

She said the talents of the volunteers range from displaced auto workers to skilled carpenters and tradesmen.

It ranges from people who are there to carry stuff because they don t know what end of the hammer to use to skilled workers who want to work on a house to see it go up from start to finish, she said.

Phyllis Madden, a retired Monroe Public Schools teacher, was part of the 25-plus member crew swinging hammers to frame one of the Thrivent-sponsored houses last week.

Her first Habitat project, Ms. Madden said she volunteered with the Habitat group because she wanted to give back to the community.

I m really glad to be able to do this. The community supported me when I was teaching. I would like to be able to give some of that back, she said.

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