Neighborhood welcomes new homeowners

Home owner Roxanne Granaham (center) surrounded by other home recipants and builders speeks to a tent full of people at the Habitat for humanity dedication ceromony on Saturday afternoon in Champaign. Tessa Pelias

By Jon Hansen

By Jon Hansen

Staff writer

On a day when constant rain made being outside anything but pleasant, Roxanne Grantham unlocked the door and walked inside her own home for the first time.

“Homeowner. I’m a homeowner,” Grantham reminded friends gathered in one of the bedrooms.

Proudly rattling her keys, she joked, “move-in day is next Saturday, you all better be there to help.”

Grantham, an addictions counselor at the Prairie Center, is one of four new Champaign homeowners who received their keys on Saturday. The homes were built in five days as part of Habitat for Humanity’s nationwide “Home Builders Blitz.”

In the largest concentrated building effort in Habitat’s history, the nonprofit organization built 400 homes for more than 1,000 people last week.

“The community pulled together and gave what they could to make this possible,” said Laura Huth, executive director of the Champaign County Habitat chapter. “This was a test of our will as a community to be good neighbors.”

Both builders and Habitat hope that the “Home Builders Blitz” will become an annual tradition in Champaign.

Huth was just one of many who spoke about the community effort at the dedication ceremony on Saturday. Jim Walder of TimberCreek Developers, builder of Grantham’s house at 1302 N. Champaign St., praised the city.

“We have been instrumental in broadening the area of the world we call home,” said Walder. “But there are more vacant lots that need a home.”

All four houses are in the same neighborhood, on Champaign, Walnut and Hickory streets north of Bradley Street. According to Huth, the area already has three existing Habitat homes. Three other builders – Signature Homes, the Atkins Group and Ramshaw Real Estate – constructed the houses with free labor from many subcontractors. According to Huth, suppliers and manufacturers donated nearly all of the building materials. In addition, hundreds of local volunteers provided food and helped with the building effort.

“What stood out to me is the heart it took to make this possible,” said Bevin Webb-Page, another new homeowner. “The hearts of the people building my home was the most amazing part of the week.”

Eric Sheu, senior in Engineering, received the Outstanding Volunteer Award at the dedication.

“In high school, I never had a chance to volunteer, but college offers a great opportunity to give back to the community,” Sheu said. “To see their faces when they get their home is amazing.”

The four families were all chosen by Habitat after meeting certain criteria. According to Huth, eligible families must have an income that is between 25 and 50 percent of the median income for the county. Families must also be willing to work, contributing at least 250 hours of “sweat equity.” Huth said these families went above and beyond in the amount of hours they worked.

“It’s a common misconception,” Huth said. “These families are not simply given a house. They are paying a mortgage for 20 years, ultimately paying about $65,000.”

After the dedication ceremony, the families opened their doors, giving tours of the new houses.

“People are asking how I feel all the time,” said Grantham. “I really cannot describe it. It’s over-whelming. I guess a tear tells it all.”