Ericka Kelley is looking forward to a first – a winter without an expensive gas bill.
“This winter coming up, just knowing I don’t have to worry about the gas bill is a blessing,” says the 39-year-old single mother of three teenage sons.
That first is just one among several for Kelley’s newly built ranch home in the 3700 block of Congress Avenue in southeast Fort Wayne.
The home also is among the first ever built in a Builders Blitz sponsored by the Fort Wayne chapter of Habitat for Humanity. And it’s one of the first local Habitat houses ever showcased during an annual Town & Country New Home Tour.
The tour, in its 37th year, will take place noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 6 and 7.
As in past years, the tour will also highlight other new homes, villas and subdivisions in the Fort Wayne area, says Maurine Holle, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Fort Wayne, event organizer.
But this year, the tour also includes the Habitat homes, which were built in a week last month and represent volunteer efforts on the part of three Fort Wayne builders – Lancia Homes, Byall Homes and Bremer Homes.
While the Habitat houses are smaller and more basic than the 1,800- to 2,800-square-foot suburban homes included on the tour, she says the houses still show the quality work of which their builders are capable and might attract a wider range of attendees.
“I think it will be good for them to see a house and learn about that (Habitat for Humanity) program, and maybe go into that program,” Holle says.
Megan Hubartt, communications coordinator for Habitat, agrees.
“We hope it will bring more people in who don’t know about Habitat or have misconceptions about what we do and who we serve. And for the builders, it has to be good publicity for them,” she says.
Besides Kelley’s neatly tan-sided three-bedroom, one-bath home, builders constructed two three-bedroom shotgun-style houses in the same block for families of refugees from Myanmar – Baby Htoo, a nursing assistant at St. Anne Home, and Eh Thwee and his wife, Mu Mu.
Thwee is a machinist studying criminal justice at Ivy Tech with the hope of becoming a Fort Wayne police officer, while Mu Mu works as a nail technician while studying English at Anthis Career Center. The couple have two sons, So Lo, 20 months, and Noble, 8 months.
Hubartt says all the houses have energy-efficient features, including insulated windows, and Energy Star appliances and heating and cooling.
Builders used Habitat floor plans and donated labor, including some from their own companies and prospective homeowners, she says.
In many cases, builders secured donated upgrades from suppliers for cabinets, flooring, fixtures and countertops, making the homes cost much less than the typical $60,000 required for a home, she noted.
Prospective homeowners picked out their own colors and styles, she says.
Kelley, who has worked in the housekeeping department of Kingston Care Center’s Fort Wayne residence at 1010 W. Washington Center Road for four years, will receive an associate’s degree in business management from Indiana Wesleyan University.
She’s been working with the Habitat program for the last two years, learning the basics of home ownership and building what the program calls “sweat equity” by helping to build homes for other families – while renting a drafty older home in the Weisser Park neighborhood.
The next first for her home, built by Bremer Homes, will come in the middle of October, after the homes are formally dedicated at 4 p.m. Oct. 1, Kelley says.
That’s when she’ll go to closing, get the keys and move in. And then she’s going to make a nice dinner in her spacious new kitchen.
“I think it’s going to be chicken and stuffing,” she says. “That’s my favorite dish.”