By Krasi Henkel
Saturday, March 11 South Hughes Street, Hamilton, Virginia – Loudoun Habitat for Humanity Executive Director, Teresa Cashen, welcomed public servants, volunteers, friends, and the recipients of the new home to be built. The chilly wind and low temperatures did not discourage warm fellowship as all gathered around the refreshments table for hot coffee and pastries.
This was a long awaited answer to prayer for recipient, Danni Keith, and her two daughters, Alexandra and Samantha, ages 15 and 12, respectively. “We don’t look like we should be eligible for this tremendous opportunity,” says Danni; but continues, “Our lives took a very different turn after I was diagnosed with MS and became unable to work enough to afford decent housing in Loudoun County,” she explained. “Our rented housing increased from $1800 to $2200 over four years, and priced us out of the community; forcing us to move in with a friend,” continued Danni.
A professional fundraiser for the Ashburn Volunteer Fire Department, Danni works on a part time basis as much as her health permits. While representing the VFD at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, Danni learned about Loudoun Habitat for Humanity from the guest speaker. The more she heard, the more she realized that she fit within the parameters of their program. She completed the comprehensive application and the wait began. Approximately seven months later, Danni’s application was approved.
Among the criteria for approval, applicants must provide “sweat equity” by physically working on the contraction project. Due to Danni’s physical limitations, she provided sweat equity by working at the ReStore and helping with the annual Gala. “My retail management and fundraising experience were perfect for those tasks,” says Danni. As the house nears completion, Danni says that her daughters will be eager to grab paintbrushes and rollers and “get to work.”
LHFH Board President, Jim Wehr reiterated the Habitat vision and mission, “With your help, we are giving families a hand-up, not a hand-out to a future that is full of hope and happiness. Thank you for joining us as we work to give everyone a place to call home. Volunteers are the heart and soul of what we do at Habitat. The key is ‘giving a hand up,’ to Loudoun families in need of adequate housing. In return, the families partner with LHFH to “build and improved a place that they can call home. The partnership involves the families, LHFH, and volunteers. At the end of the project, the families have a home of their own with an affordable mortgage. “Providing homeownership opportunities to these families helps them achieve the strength, stability, and self-reliance needed to build better lives for themselves,” said Wehr.
LHFH Construction Manager, Bud Green, introduced Danni Keith saying, “I am thrilled to death to introduce Danni Keith. She’s going to be great, great homeowners!” He went on to explain that the house will be, “very much like the homes across the street, 48 feet by 28 feet with a front porch. It will be a four bedroom home on a crawl space and we build them very, very energy efficient. It will be a beautiful home for a beautiful homeowner on this 18,000 square foot lot. It is the first of two homes on these two adjacent lots.”
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair At-Large, Phyllis Randall addressed Danni, “Your story is so inspiring and I thank you for your honesty. I am thrilled for you and I cannot wait to be here for the ribbon cutting.” Randall said, “Every family and every child deserves a place to live and call home -some place that is safe and warm.” Ms. Randall recalled a 2008 study of children with difficulty in schools, “The children with the greatest challenges lacked safe stable permanent housing. “You’re not going to study for your algebra test if you’re not sure where you’re going to lay your head that night. Habitat for Humanity, Bud, you guys do God’s work out here. You do it every day and you do it without fanfare and sometimes without notice. It is amazing work that you do for the community. Thank you for your mission, thank you for your vision, thank you for your goal. This is the only reason I would have gotten up on a cold Saturday morning,” she said.
Geary Higgins thanked everyone for including him and admired the LHFH mission, which includes God’s love. Higgins said, “What you folks are doing is laying down your lives and your time, and your sweat, and your treasure to do something for others. That’s a great commitment of a great organization.”
Hamilton Town Council members, Craig Green and John Unger expressed enthusiasm for the project and their new neighbor, “Having worked with Bud Green to build other houses, this will be a top notch house. Anyone who wants to have some fun and volunteer, this is a great project. We are thrilled to have a new neighbor in the town. Affordable housing is a big problem in all of Loudoun and we are thrilled that LHFH and Hamilton can help to try to solve this problem.”
Danni Keith addressed the group, “I can’t put to words what this means for me and my girls. We have had a long journey. My girls mean the world to me. I cannot express my gratitude to Habitat for providing us this opportunity. I can’t think of a better place to call home than this amazing community of Hamilton. Thank you all for giving me this opportunity to buy this house.”
LHFH Board member and Pastor of Leesburg Baptist Church, Barney Schwanke, gave the blessing dedicating the ground to God and reminding all of a verse in the Bible, “Except if the Lord build the house, they labor in vain.” Schwanke prayed, “…We want you, Lord, to build this house and that we see your fingerprints all over this house. We ask your blessing upon this property.”
With shovel and hardhat in hand, Danni was first to step up after giving hats to her girls. “We’re a good team,” proclaimed Terese Cashen, as shovels sliced through the soft earth and the first clumps of dirt were moved. The temperature warmed and everyone enjoyed one more cup of coffee in celebration.
To learn more about Loudoun Habitat for Humanity, visit their website at loudounhabitat.org.