Habitat for Humanity delivers Christmas gift

NANAIMO - Two families receive keys to their Habitat For Humanity homes Friday.

Jo-Anne Graham and her son

Christmas came early for two Nanaimo families last week who received the keys to their brand new homes.

Jo-Anne Graham and her 14-year-old son Raymond, along with Kerry and Laura Sawchyn and their two-year-old son Tyler, were the families selected specially for the duplex build project on Hecate Street through Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island.

Like many habitat homes, it was a project which brought together support from all over the community, from trade workers to Vancouver Island University students.

And Friday, backed by crisp, bright sunshine they came together one final time to commemorate the project’s completion and officially hand over the keys to the new homeowners.

“I’m overjoyed. I’ve come to tears with all the happiness and admiration for everything everyone has done to complete this home,” said Graham, a single, working mom. “Raymond and I can’t wait to be here and start living in a safe environment in an area we know and grew up in.”

Graham, who grew up on nearby Kennedy Street, is glad to be coming back to the area. The two previously resided on Hecate Street about 10 years ago, as renters.

Habitat For Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island is a standalone charity that builds and sells safe and affordable homes with interest-free mortgages to select families based on financial and circumstantial need, willingness to participate in volunteer activities and the family’s ability to make mortgage payments.

Laura Sawchyn said she was encouraged by her father to apply. She read an article in a local newspaper that the organization was having difficulty finding applicants for the latest build.

Since then both families had to undergo the application process and interviews, and once selected, complete 500 hours of ‘sweat equity’ in the community.

“It’s been stressful, but exciting,” Sawchyn said.

Sawchyn and her husband spent much of their hours donating time at the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange, while Graham and Raymond worked at the build site, cleaning up after the trades workers had left.

Raymond also volunteered hours at Nanaimo Foodshare and Code Brew at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. He said he hopes to continue volunteering in the community and one day participate in building a habitat home.

“It was pretty fun,” he said.

Contributing to the build were approximately 30 trades students from VIU’s carpentry program. The first group of students helped put up the duplex foundation and framed the first floor in mid-September, followed by a second group who assisted with the finishing and building the exterior fencing on the property.

“It was neat to see how they bought in to the project and the pride that they took in it,” said Jessie Chalmers, chairman of the carpentry program at VIU. “They’ve really taken a lot of ownership of the project.”

The duplex was built on land purchased by Habitat and approximately $180,000 was raised toward offsetting costs. The organization is still looking to fundraise for a second duplex being built on the lot, which will begin in February.

According to Teresa Pring, Habitat CEO, the families will save approximately $200,000 each in interest savings, in addition to savings they will experience in their energy-efficient homes.

“This project takes our community another step closer to addressing the needs of families living in poverty in Nanaimo,” she said.

Depending on how quickly the title documents are processed, the Graham and Sawchyn families could be home in time for Christmas.

“For sure they’ll be in by Jan. 1, but we are still pushing for them to get in faster,” Pring said. “Either way, 2013 is going to be an exceptional year for both families, for sure.”

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