Editor's note:This is the 10th in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.
BY ANGIE HAFLICH
Habitat for Humanity gives hope to many families, but without donations and funding from the Finney County United Way, the organization likely would fall short in that endeavor.
The Habitat for Humanity currently is finishing exterior construction of its seventh home, located at 502 N. Fifth St., providing hope to Luis and Veronica Jimenez and their seven young sons.
"The grants we get from the United Way really help these families and they change lives," Habitat for Humanity President Carrye Jane Mantilla said. "These boys will now be able to grow up in a nice environment."
Mantilla said the organization received $5,000 from United Way in 2013 and is set to receive $8,000 for 2014.
"All of the funding we get will be going toward building materials," she said.
She said that applicants qualify for Habitat homes based on their current living conditions and their income.
"Habitat builds houses for people. They don't give houses to people," she said.
Applicants pay a 30-year mortgage covering the costs of construction and the lot, but the mortgage is interest-free. They also must invest 300 to 500 hours of work, or sweat equity, on the construction of their home or someone else's home.
"They also have to currently live in substandard housing," Mantilla said.
The Jimenez family has been living in a small, three-bedroom double-wide mobile home on Anderson Road. Their new home will have five bedrooms and a full basement.
Sister Roserita Weber of the Dominican Ministry of Presence said that the Habitat homes provide a more stable environment for families, and in particular the children.
"A side benefit is the children's grades improve because they have more quiet and more space to study. The families themselves work as part of the construction of the home, so they have a very vested interest in maintaining it," Weber said.
Construction on the home on Fifth Street is anticipated to be complete by the end of the year, and then Habitat for Humanity will begin construction on the eighth home.
"The great thing is a lot of poor families are so grateful for their houses that a lot of them end up helping on other houses," Mantilla said.
She also said that without volunteers, the homes could not be built. Private donations are used for purchasing lots, while some of the lots are donated.
Mantilla said that her hope is that the organization will become self-sustaining.
"United Way funding and donations are really important because we are still in a small town, and even though we have helped a lot of families, we're still only on our seventh house, so the payments we get from the mortgages still aren't enough for us to be able to use that money to build other houses. In bigger cities, the Habitat for Humanities are self-sustainable because they might have 50 houses, where they have 50 mortgage payments coming in," she said.
Mantilla estimated that the organization will need to build approximately 12 total houses before that can happen in Garden City.
"That is really our goal — to get to the point where we are making enough money to be self-sustainable," she said. "Right now, that's why United Way and all the money we get from donations is really important, so we can keep our organization running."
Mantilla said that Habitat for Humanity is always seeking volunteers. To learn more about volunteering opportunities with Habitat for Humanity, email volunteer coordinator Juliann Morland DaVee at email@example.com.
The local United Way's annual campaign goal is $560,000, which is $10,000 more than last year.
The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 campaign include:
Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council — Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains — CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital — Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission — Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels.