Guest Post by Executive Director David Wenger
I don’t remember my first bike. You would think that all children remember their first bike. I do, however, remember my second bike. What was the difference? My second bike was the one that I purchased myself. I sweated on the job and saved the money that I earned by doing chores and mowing lawns over the course of a year with my target on one special bike. When I had enough money, my father took me to Town and Country Auto on Court Square in Harrisonburg to purchase a three-speed bike with a banana seat, high arching handlebars, and handlebar brakes. After purchasing it I had to learn how to use it. I never had gears before. I never had handle bar breaks before. I can tell you that I loved riding and learning how to operate this bike because it was mine!
As you can tell by the fact that Town and Country Auto is no longer on Court Square and banana seats are no longer in style, I purchased my first bike many years ago. Leap forward to 2002 when I was again sweating as I am moving subflooring, driving nails, sweeping floors, painting walls to assist with building my home. During this time, I also had to learn how to maintain my home, get insurance to protect it, and make sure that I could pay for the home by budgeting my income. Again, I value my home as a project that I worked toward and helped construct with my own hands.
I realize that you are now asking yourself, “why do I want to know about your history?” My answer is because I think you can relate to times when you have had to work toward a purchase or sweat to accomplish a goal. I think you can also understand the reason why families who purchase a Habitat Home cherish their home.
During my first year as the Executive Director for Central Valley Habitat for Humanity I spoke with many families about their experience with the Habitat process. These families ranged from those who had been in their home for thirty years to families who were working toward a new home currently. Each family spoke about how they cherished their home and the fact they want to stay in that home. When I asked myself why the families felt this way, the answer was because of their personal investment in building those houses.
Each family who purchases a Habitat home contributes multiple hours to the creation of that home. We call these hours “Sweat Equity” time. This is a requirement that the families are aware of as they make applications for the opportunity to purchase a Habitat house. The fact that Central Valley Habitat families are not looking for an easy path to home ownership is one of the strengths of our program.
Our families start by supporting other Habitat families during events such as Groundbreaking Ceremonies, House Dedications, and fundraisers. Next, they learn how to be a homeowner by attending family education classes. These include sessions that total more than twelve hours on budget creation, managing credit, homeowner and auto insurance, and mortgage payment. The family is also called upon to help build the home of other Habitat families and their own homes. Just in case you missed it, I’ve been saying the families work. Each adult works at least 200 hours on the above activities. Children who are old enough attend the classes and work on the building site contribute to the total hours and younger children help by earning good grades at school.
I finish by asking, what is “sweat equity?” Sweat equity is the reason why Central Valley Habitat for Humanity families are so invested in their own homes and future. Sweat equity is why Central Valley Habitat for Humanity families cherish their homes. Finally, sweat equity is why Central Valley Habitat for Humanity families stay in their homes.
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