Habitat chapter reviews 2012, prepares for future

Seneca Habitat for Humanity volunteers, residents and board members met Saturday, but no one broke out the tools for this gathering. It was the organization’s annual meeting and potluck at St. Joseph Activity Center.

About 30 people attended for a recap on activities in 2012 and to hear plans for 2013. Executive Director Joe Swora said last year’s highlight was the “blitz build” July 21. Habitat volunteers worked side-by-side with members of the Seneca County Home Builders Association to build a home on Third Avenue.

“The 2012 extreme build was a dedicated one-day build to complete at least the exterior of 252 Third Ave. in 16 hours or less. It had never been done,” Swora said.

Habitat board member Richard Zeis, who spearheaded the effort, gave a summary of the project. He explained the idea grew out of his involvement with the ABC television reality show, “Extreme Home Makeover.” Builders from the show had approached Zeis to have his company, Quick Dry, work on two Ohio homes that were part of the reality show.

Zeis thought a similar project could be done to build a Habitat home. When he proposed his idea to the habitat board, members accepted it with great enthusiasm and made Zeis the chairman. Habitat had approved Challie Briihl for the next home, so that was the residence chosen for the “blitz build.”

Zeis presented a slide show that followed the build from start to finish.

In the preceding days, the site was prepared and the foundation was constructed. The rest was to be done on the day of the build. Zeis said he worried something might go wrong and postpone the event. Fortunately, the weather cooperated, the supplies arrived on time and more than 120 volunteers showed up to help.

“We wanted to be the first company (SCHBA) to do this,” Zeis said.

He borrowed the TV show’s policy of having all the builders wear hard hats and special T-shirts to identify them and admit them to the site. Briihl was on hand all day to watch her home rise as the hours passed. Zeis estimated the volunteer crew did about $12,000 to $17,000 worth of labor in that one day. He passed out a timeline of the 12 hours it took to build and enclose the house from floor to roof.

“The one thing I wish we’d had more of … was more local support to see this, to actually watch us build,” Zeis said. “Hopefully, the next build we do, we’ll see more participation.”

Swora said Briihl still is required to contribute sweat equity either on her house or on other Habitat projects. He also reviewed other important events from 2012. Two homes were dedicated and a mortgage was burned on same day as the blitz build. Sentinel Career and Technology Center students continue to help with construction and electrical work to benefit Habitat as they learn skills for a career.

Officers for 2013 were elected. They are: Richard Wyka, president; Tammy Sessions, first vice president; Bernard Hohman, second vice president; Larry Clausing, treasurer; Hank Frey, assistant treasurer; Bonnie Boroff, recording secretary; and Faye Lyon, corresponding secretary.

A budget also was approved. Swora had compiled a printed financial report for 2012. Although fewer grant sources are available, the organization was able to recover payments from families in arrears through a new Restoring Stability program.

Habitat also was forced to foreclose on two homes whose families had fallen too far behind. The families chose to leave the program and surrender their houses. The building committee had to pull some of the construction crew away from the new construction to refurbish the returned homes. One had been occupied for four years and the other for 10 years.

Both needed considerable work to get them ready for resale. The major renovations included replacing excessively-worn items, such as faucets and mini-blinds. Volunteers have repainted and recarpeted the interiors.

The house at 199 Fifth Ave. has four bedrooms and is on the market. The second, 143 First Ave., has three bedrooms and is nearing completion for resale. Both are available to the public.