Habitat prepares for 28th year in area

By MaryAnn Kromer

Staff Writer

The Upper Room at St. Joseph Activity Center was crowded with people Saturday for the annual meeting of Seneca Habitat for Humanity. Executive Director Joe Swora noted the agency is in its 28th year of service.

In his report, Swora gave an overview of important happenings from 2013. This past summer, Challie Briihl and her family closed on their home on Third Avenue. The Family Selection Committee received 16 applications for partner families, of which two were approved.

“Both families are excited to begin work on their respective homes, and we look forward to serving them,” Swora said.

The remaining applicants were given letters outlining what each family needed to do to qualify for a Habitat home. When the recommendations are met within a specific timeframe, the applications will be reviewed again.

The building committee reviewed the second Habitat “extreme build” this past November, which completed a significant part of the construction for the four-bedroom home of Tina and Robert Newman. Members of the Seneca County Home Builders Association provided equipment and manpower for the build, working alongside Habitat volunteers on the energy-efficient dwelling.

Swora expressed appreciation for the student interns Heidelberg and Tiffin universities have been sending to Habitat. The current intern is Kelsey Creamer from Heidelberg.

Swora also thanked the board of directors for its efforts and volunteers who worked in many capacities.

“Their love, dedication and hard work are the core of our ministry, and we couldn’t do it without them,” Swora said.

In the coming months, the building committee will be working with Kisha Reuter and Steven Kopp to design the Third Avenue home for which they have been approved.

It is to become the SCHBA’s third “extreme build” this summer.

Headed by Ruth Metcalf, the church relations committee gave an update on the churches involved in preparing Saturday lunches for volunteers and helping with home dedication services.

Following the potluck dinner, Ruthann House addressed the gathering. The CEO of WSOS, House said her agency is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. She described the many community action programs WSOS conducts in Wyandot, Seneca, Ottawa and Sandusky counties.

Although the Tiffin WSOS office closed a few years ago, an office remains open in Bascom to oversee the Head Start Program for preschool children. For homeowners, WSOS can help with down payments, weatherization, repairs and emergency heating bills. House said foreclosure counseling also has been added in recent years.

The Community Housing Improvement Program is a partnership with the city of Tiffin, WSOS and Habitat. WSOS employee Charlene Watkins also serves on the Seneca Habitat board. In turn, Habitat board member Georgia Reed attends WSOS meetings to keep abreast of its activities.

“It’s been a great partnership, and everything our organization does, we do well in conjunction with partners. I can’t stress that enough,” House said. “We have anywhere from 300-400 employees, depending on our current level of funding. We are mostly federally funded … from competitive grants.”

After the presentation by House, outgoing board president Richard Wyka presided as Habitat members approved a 2014 budget and a slate of board members and board officers. Tammy Sessions is to serve as the new board president.

Swora showed slides of a finished kitchen and the exterior of a recent Habitat build. He recognized Dan Galaba, Gaylen Kline, Joe Robenault and Jim Ruess for their leadership on the building committee. Galaba also paid tribute to Glenn Ritzenthaler, now retired, for training and guiding him and many other building volunteers and partner families working on their homes.

After a prayer, Swora closed by urging the crowd to spread the word about the need for home applications, volunteers and financial donors.

To learn more about Seneca Habitat, email or call (419) 447-4270.