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Published: Monday, 8/4/2008

Habitat displays dreams: 300 tour five 'Builders Blitz' homes on Waybridge

BY LAURA BENNETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Michelle Kajderowicz, standing on the porch of her new Habitat for Humanity home, greets Darla Figas, on the sidewalk in front, and Deb Schmenk, strolling behind her yesterday. Michelle Kajderowicz, standing on the porch of her new Habitat for Humanity home, greets Darla Figas, on the sidewalk in front, and Deb Schmenk, strolling behind her yesterday.
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On Waybridge Road in West Toledo, five neat, pastel houses sit in a row. White porches overlook the quiet street. And in rooms filled with glossy counter tops, fresh carpet, and smooth wooden cabinets, five families soon will make these homes their own.

The Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity's Parade of Dreams yesterday showcased the five houses built during a "Builders Blitz," during which 11 local builders collaborated to complete five homes in seven days.

"We build safe, decent, simple, affordable housing," said Marilyn Jensen, development director for the local Habitat group. "We're not out to build the Taj Mahal, but these homes are not cookie-cutter."

During the four-hour open house, about 300 people meandered through the empty rooms and met the families, all of whom are to move into their new homes before Labor Day.

"This is the best thing that's ever happened to me besides my kids," said Michelle Kajderowicz, whose three-bedroom home has a front yard lined with boxwood.

The Maumee Valley Growers Association donated shrubs.

The Waybridge Road homes are in a quiet, tree-lined area just off Bennett Road, between Laskey and Alexis roads. Habitat bought the land 18 months ago.

Construction of the houses began July 25 after two years of planning and fund-raising.

Each home typically costs $100,000 to $110,000 to build, Ms. Jensen said, including in-kind services, materials, and labor. Habitat hopes to build five more houses on this street during the upcoming year.

Despite the tight time frame, the process has gone very smoothly, said Niki Funk, project supervisor for HOJ Development Inc., one of the participating builders.

"The nice thing about doing this here is that we get to help people in this community," said Jim Moline of Sylvania, a builder who worked on one of the homes.

Homeowners are selected based on income and their willingness to partner with Habitat by completing 300 to 500 hours of "sweat equity" - 50 of which are required on their own homes. They must agree to attend financial management classes and monthly meetings.

Prospective homeowners can choose from among four four-bedroom floor plans, four three-bedroom plans, and two five-bedroom plans, depending on their family's size.

Bruce Cook of Toledo, one of the new homeowners on Waybridge, is a single dad with three young children. His home is shaded by dogwood trees and weeping cherries, and the bedrooms are flooded with sunlight from several large windows.

"I have always been paying rent, and haven't had anything to call my own substantially. This will be my first opportunity to become a homeowner," Mr. Cook said.

"I'm a sheet-metal worker, and the economy's real slow right now. We're hoping that things pick back up, but we have to do what we have to do along the way."

The family has been living in a nearby duplex in which Mr. Cook's two daughters, ages 10 and 4, shared a bedroom, and he and his 8 year-old son shared another. Now, each child will have a separate room. "I like this house because it's newer and my new bed has a heart on it," Tiffany Cook, 4, said.

Habitat for Humanity is a faith-based, nonprofit organization that develops affordable housing for low-income families around the world, then sells the homes to the families with no-interest loans. Homeowners pay a 25-year mortgage to Habitat.

The Maumee Valley Habitat has built or renovated 140 homes in the area in the last 20 years.

"This is a new start for a lot of these families," said David Belknap of Maumee, a construction manager for the project and Habitat staff member. "And when times are tough, it's exceptionally important to step up and do something like this."

Contact Laura Bennett at: lbennett@theblade.com or 419-724-6728.



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