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Posted: November 3, 2014

Family moves into Habitat home

Following a brief but moving ceremony Saturday morning, a Cranbrook family moved into their first home thanks to Habitat For Humanity and a dedicated group of volunteers.

Gord Johnston welcomes guests to the key presentation ceremony to the Berry family Nov. 1. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW photos
Gord Johnston welcomes guests to the key presentation ceremony to the Berry family Nov. 1. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW photos

When Habitat for Humanity project leader Gord Johnston handed the Berry family the keys to their Slaterville home (217 Crestbrook Avenue), it culminated more than two years of organizing, planning and work among a host of necessary parties.

Prior to handing over the keys, Habitat for Humanity (HFH) Family Selection Committee member Jill Johnston blessed the house.

“A community of wonderful and generous people have come together to make a home,” she said, tearing up.

“This is really an amazing day,” City of Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski told the assembled volunteers, family members, neighbours and media Nov. 1.

In 2012 Cranbrook council was advised of a plan by HFH West Kootenay to build a home in the city, he related. And after much planning and consultation the city agreed to donate a lot at in Slaterville, which was formalized on a steaming hot July 2, 2013 afternoon, on an empty, weedy lot that now holds a lovely, brand new home.

H4H3Stetski thanked the volunteers and local businesses for their contributions and singled out Gord Johnston for his leadership.

“It couldn’t have happened without you, Gord,” he said. “Hopefully we will make more great days like this in the future.”

Stetski noted that during the process to find a lot for HFH, a couple of other lots “that are absolutely suitable” for future housing projects were also identified.

HFH West Kootenay director Rick Friesen, on hand for the ceremony from Grand Forks, told those assembled that HFH is now eyeing the entire region for similar projects and praised involved in making this project happen.

A veteran of 14 similar projects, Friesen said he was amazed at how quickly the house was completed.

“You guys are like energy bunnies over here,” he said, outlining the most important aspect of the project is “the community that is built is the biggest thing with projects like this. A vacant lot that was a liability” is now a tax generating property and a home for a family.

“What I have taken away from this is, not only are we providing a home for a family, but the community involvement has been overwhelming. It’s real stuff; we’ve built something real,” Johnston said before handing over the keys to David and Coreena Berry and their children Hana, 11, Jordan, 9, Alysha, 10 and Samantha, 1.

Battling tears, Coreena Berry said, “Thank you to everybody who was involved in this. We appreciate this more than any of you will ever know.”

Baby Samantha then added a few ‘words’, drawing a big laugh from the crowd.

A home tour followed the ceremony, along with cake and coffee.

Betty Roper, HFH Publicity Coordinator explained how the program works.

“Habitat for Humanity Canada homes, built by local volunteers and donations, are not given away. HFH partners with a family in need, who will hold a no-interest mortgage, to provide them with an opportunity for home ownership they may not otherwise be able to achieve. Habitat for Humanity is a partnership, not a charity; and believes that Habitat families are self-sufficient,” she said.

The selection committee reviewed applications, interviewed and visited with several families over a three-month period.

On recommendation of the Cranbrook Project Family Partner selection committee, the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity West Kootenay approved the Berry family as successful applicants for the first Habitat for Humanity home to be built in Cranbrook in January of this year.

Lot and site preparation began August 2, 2013 and excavation work began May 22. Construction of the house began June 2 and by July 18 workers reached lock-up stage and work on the interior was begun, including energy-efficient design considerations.

Key project volunteers include: Gord Johnston, Project Leader; Jim Bennett, Construction Leader; Fran Fagan, Amenities Coordinator; Paul Willis and Gail Van Berlo, Volunteer Coordinators; Jill Johnston, Gord Harder, Stu Deeks, Family Selection Committee; Betty Roper, Publicity Coordinator; Roger and Majella Brown, Sharon Cross, Members-at-Large.

Lead photo: Gord Johnston, back left, with Alysha, Hana, Coreena, Jordan, Samantha and David Berry.

Some of the key players in the East Kootenay's first Habitat for Humanity build.
Some of the key players in the East Kootenay’s first Habitat for Humanity build.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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