From: Chris Williamson
Board Chair on behalf of Habitat for Humanity Winona-Fillmore Counties Board of Directors
Amongst the weekend reports of Winona County’s poverty rate increasing and affordable rental housing units decreasing, there was one story a little less public. On Saturday morning, December 18th, just one week before Christmas, Chad and Annie Bybee and their 3 children stood shoulder to shoulder with about 80 friends to take part in the dedication celebration of their new home. It was Habitat for Humanity volunteers and donors who partnered with the Bybee family to make their dream of homeownership a reality. With deep gratitude and tears on almost every check-this family signed their symbolic mortgage (the actual closing paperwork had been done the day before) and accepted the keys to their new home.
Aside from the obvious—a dad, mom and 3 children now living in a much better place, there are several reasons why this is a huge success story. The community of Rushford and all those in surrounding areas that have come to support this family over the last year is amazing. Several hundred volunteers have had the privilege of helping to transform the future for the Bybee family.
The Bybee’s new house payment will be almost $200/month less than they were paying for rent. Coupling this with much lower utility bills, because their new home was built to very high energy efficient standards, this family will realize a substantial housing savings.
The Bybees now join 40 other families whose lives have been changed by the work of Habitat for Humanity. It has been a big year for Habitat for Humanity in our area. We were able to complete 3 homes in Winona and Fillmore County, which now provide simple decent housing for 14 people. By summer, two additional homes will be completed bringing our total to 43 homes with over 115 children, now living in a safe, simple, decent and affordable home.
We must recognize the women of our community because the Women’s Build project has been wildly successful. The women of our community have done an amazing job fund raising and building the home on Edward Street. Another great accomplishment was the official expansion of our affiliate, which will allow us the opportunity to serve not only Winona County but Fillmore County as well. The Fillmore County community has really pulled together to
form an advisory committee for their county and raise the resources necessary to start a Habitat program in their area.
Habitat for Humanity Winona – Fillmore Counties has enjoyed great success over the last 16 years and for that we are deeply grateful. But the need for what we are doing is even more critical in today’s economy and we need the ongoing support of our community in order to continue to meet these needs. Funding is always a concern and financial support is, most obviously, appreciated from all levels of the community. There are also many others ways to plug in to what we are doing and make a huge difference in the lives of families in need. Finding affordable lots is critical for our organization. Donated lots or those sold to us at very reasonable prices can make all the difference in our bottom line of keeping a home affordable for a family. The other area that we are struggling with is recruitment of volunteers and committee members. We have many open positions on our fund raising committees including positions to help coordinate fund raising events, soliciting support from individuals in the community, and developing a base of financial support from area businesses. We also have open positions on our Finance, Family Support, Restore, Church Relations, and Family Selection committees. One of the greatest needs we have at our ReStore is for regular volunteers who might be willing to work in the store of an hour or two a week.
Many people make resolutions at this time of year and we are hoping that some of you make a resolution to get more involved in your community and help us by becoming and active participant with Habitat for Humanity. We are proud to serve the members of this community by providing a hand up and not a hand out. Learn more at www.habitatwinona.org.
Merry Christmas & Best Wishes