Muskegon County Habitat for Humanity brought together a collection of “winners” Wednesday morning as rehabilitation of its 97th home project began at 2055 Beidler.
The obvious winners are Chris and Samantha Berg of Wolf Lake, who will eventually move into the city of Muskegon house by the end of June. But no one at the first volunteer work session felt better about the project than Amy MacNeil, daughter of the late Jack Vanderkooi, whose family donated her father’s home to Habitat for Humanity.
And then there were the half dozen Muskegon High School students and their Muskegon Rotary Club mentors who began the interior demolition of the Habitat home so it can be prepared for the Berg family. The mentors were able to strengthen their relationships with the students and the students learned the meaning of community service, they said.
Finally, Habitat officials said the city’s neighborhood will be a winner as a residential home will be restored and improved. For the city of Muskegon, the project will help stabilize property taxes, said Muskegon County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Jodi Nichols
“Habitat for Humanity is such a unique organization in that it provides so many facets of service,” Nichols said. “Habitat makes a lifetime difference for a family. Owning your own home is life changing.”
The Bergs are a young family with two small children. Chris works at Ranger Die Inc. in Walker as the couple and their children stay with family to save money for the move into home ownership. The housing project is being supported by the city of Muskegon and the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority, along with local donors.
“This is so exciting,” Samantha Berg said as she helped with the work that began on the family’s new home. “We are just so thankful that people are out here helping us. This is going to be my family’s home.”
No one was touched more by the STRIVE mentoring members work on the Beilder house than MacNeil. She said Jack Vanderkooi’s family decision to donate his home would have been something that her father would have wanted.
“This was a very easy decision,” she said of herself and six other siblings in the blended family of her late father and stepmother Donna Vanderkooi.
Jack Vanderkooi was the owner for Van’s Printing in Cloverville and died in March 2010.
“Many times in my father’s life he struggled and needed a helping hand,” MacNeil said. “We thought he’d want to provide a helping hand up for another family. After seeing this, I have no doubts.”
Habitat Building Coordinator Mike McIntyre – who has work for more than 20 years as a home builder in the Muskegon area – directed the Muskegon High School students and the Rotarians in pulling up carpeting and removing old woodwork. The house is being prepared for a substantial upgrade, including the expansion of the second story to provide more room for the Berg family.
“I wanted to see how this was going to work,” 17-year-old Ashley Griggs said of giving up a morning of her Spring Break to volunteer on the Habitat home. “It was fun. I am happy that I can help the family get started. I want to come back and see it when it is done.”
Griggs will be graduating from Muskegon High School in June and is making plans to attend Ferris State University in Big Rapids in the fall to study social work. She has been working with Rotarian Michelle Martin-Mills – a Muskegon psychologist – for the past two years in the STRIVE program.
STRIVE co-chairwoman and Rotarian Judy Johnson said the program matches up Muskegon High School students with members of the Muskegon Rotary Club to provide potential college-bound students with the motivation and information to successfully transition to college. Rotary currently has 17 mentor-student pairs, Johnson said.
Wednesday’s work on the Beidler home provided the mentors and the students an opportunity to get to know each other in a unique setting. It also taught the students the importance of community service, she said.
“It is good for their relationship to see them working side-by-side,” Johnson said of the mentors and the students.
The Rotary STRIVE program’s work with Habitat will be part of the 1,000 volunteer hours offered by residents in Muskegon County each year. A Habitat home will take on average 300 volunteer hours outside of the work of professional subcontractors to provide plumbing and electrical services, Nichols said.
Muskegon County Habitat for Humanity will be working on three home rehabilitations and one new affordable home this summer. The organization is seeking two other low-income families like the Bergs for two of the houses, Nichols said. Qualifying families need stable income from $14,000-$40,000 a year depending upon family size.
Anyone interested in applying for Habitat home ownership can contact the nonprofit housing agency at 727-6020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to apply. Habitat has been working in the Muskegon community since 1985.