MORRIS – Home ownership is something many people wish to attain, but for the Mercado family – father Rey and daughters Marina and Willow – it is a dream come true.
Home ownership comes with a price – typically a sizeable down payment and closing costs – that prevents many people from becoming first time buyers.
But Saturday, Rey and his daughters were able to cut the ribbon on their first home – a Habitat for Humanity home – in Morris.
The Mercado family are the recipients of Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity’s 10th home, located in a planned Habitat subdivision on the east side of Morris on the former Papermill property on North Street. The plan is for five homes in the subdivision. The Mercado home is the second in the subdivision, Hancock Page, named after its founding members Randy Hancock and Janet Page.
“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.”
Marina said her dad put a lot of work into building the house alongside the volunteers and she is proud of him.
“Some people wouldn’t do all the work for their family,” Marina said. “My dad put a lot of effort into 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 fall 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 Habitat looks at when choosing a family for a Habitat home. The first is need: is it going to be good for the family long term? Second is the ability to pay the mortgage, as 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, the family has to be willing to partner with the organization and provide 400 hours of sweat equity.
The chosen family 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.
“It keeps reminding me that Mother Nature rules, first with the sun last summer keeping us off the roof and then the wind, rain and cold winter,” Rey said.
The family showed off the house to dozens of people who came out in the cold to watch the dedication Saturday morning.
The three-bedroom home has some perks, thanks to help from area businesses, including a marble counter top in the kitchen and custom paint in the girl’s rooms.
For the girls the biggest part of having the new home is having their own rooms.
“I won’t hear her complain, and I won’t be tripping over her horses to get to my dresser,” Willow said.
Willow’s birthday is coming up and she hopes they can be in the house and she can have a slumber party to celebrate.
Marina’s room is painted two shades of green, her favorite color, and she already has it planned out where her bed will go along with her collection of horses.
“The best thing is we get to have our own room, my sister won’t knock down the stuff I have,” Marina said,
The girl’s also put work to help get the home by volunteering at a fundraiser during Grundy County’s Corn Festival for Habitat for Humanity.
“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.