Habitat for Humanity home dedicated in Morris

MORRIS -- Rey Mercado and his daughters, Marina and Willow, were able to cut the ribbon on their first home -- a Habitat for Humanity home, on Saturday in Morris.

The Mercado family are the recipients of Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity’s 10th home located on the east side of Morris on the former Papermill property.

"The family is required to do 400 hours of sweat equity," Julie Wilkinson, President of Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity told the crowd gathered at the dedication ceremony. "Rey has been out on his days off, even when no one else was here. He is always here with a smile and never complained, he was happy to do it."

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit that builds affordable homes for families that earn 30 to 60 percent of the area’s median income and are unable to qualify for a conventional home loan. The homes come with a no-interest mortgage, with mortgage payments helping fund the next Habitat home.

The Mercado family was among 25 applicants who applied for a home in the fall of 2012. Following an assessment of the family's finances and need for permanent housing, they were selected as the "partner family."

Wilkinson said there are three criteria they look at when choosing a family for a Habitat home. They first look at need, is it going to be good for the family long term. Second, they look at the ability to pay the mortgage, the families must earn 30 to 60 percent of the area’s median income and are unable to qualify for a conventional home loan. Third, they have to be willing to partner with the organization and provide 400 hours of sweat equity.

The family who is chosen is given a mentor who helps them with financial planning as well as wading through the process from beginning to end.

The original goal was to have the family living in the home by Christmas, but mother nature seems to have fought them each step of the way, including providing a soggy, muddy front yard for the dedication ceremony. They opted not to put in the carpet until after the ceremony where members of the community are invited to tour the home.

"Saying thank you isn't nearly enough," Rey said. "I want to applaud all of you who put in the time and effort. This small community showed it can make a big difference."

Rey closed on the house this week, and the family is set to move in by the end of the month.