In the rental Stephanie Bunney and her three daughters lived in, the monthly payments were high, the house was small and the heating system didn”t quite work.
After three year”s worth of encouragement from family members, Bunney, the academic coordinator for electrical and computer engineering at the University of Idaho, decided to apply to become one of Habitat for Humanity”s Partner Families.
When her application was selected and she heard the news that she and her daughters would soon begin the process of building their own house, Bunney said she began to cry.
“I cried just because my personal history has not been necessarily, I mean, I make the joke if it weren”t for bad luck I wouldn”t have any luck,” Bunney said. “It”s just that everything requires a lot of work, everything comes at a price – that”s why I didn”t apply for so long. I didn”t think I would get it.”
While the process to become a partner family with Habitat for Humanity begins with an application, Bunney said there are a number of requirements applicants must meet to be selected.
“You have to fall within certain income guidelines and so for me, I was in the top three or four families they were looking at,” she said. “They came and looked at the rental I was living in because the qualifications are income guidelines and you also have to demonstrate that you have inadequate housing.”
Bunney, who is a single mother to her daughters, ages 12, 10 and 6, said not only had she and her family been moving every two to three years because of rent increases, but the current rental she had been living in was too small and had heating problems.
“The heating costs were just outstanding and we think the selling point of the (committee) was in the living room, when they were visiting, they were comfortable,” Bunney said. “But when they moved to my dining room table because they wanted to look over documents with me, there were three ladies there and two of them had to get up and get their coats it was so cold.”
After an applicant is selected, Bunney said they are required to put anywhere from 300 to 500 hours into building their new home.
Despite the 300 hours Bunney needed to put toward the house, she said the labor wasn”t the hardest part. Instead, it was not being able to help the volunteers who were contributing to the house on Thursdays, one of Habitat for Humanity”s two designated building days.
“It was hard sitting at my desk on Thursdays knowing there was a group of people building my house and I can”t be there to help,” Bunney said. “I tried to make an effort to thank every one of the volunteers that came out, so knowing there was a group of people I didn”t interact with so I didn”t even get to tell them thank you, that was very challenging.”
William Parker, an electrical engineering major at UI and Engineers Without Borders president, was among the students who volunteered for the project.
Parker and many other engineering students know Bunney personally and he said it was a great experience being able to come together with other community members to build her home.
“The houses come together with a lot of people from the community,” Parker said. “We were a small part of the volunteers, but it was a lot of fun. A lot of the members know Stephanie personally too, because she”s been the secretary for electrical and civil engineering departments.”
While Engineers Without Borders only comprised a small number of volunteers, Parker said he appreciated the ways in which the project brought together community members.
“It was heartwarming to see. You see people move into a house and a lot of times it”s a good thing,” Parker said. “But it”s neat to see that happen because of the community coming together to help someone do something they might not be able to afford otherwise.”
Bunney said she is tremendously grateful for the many student and community volunteers who helped build the house.
Despite the large number of hardworking volunteers, Bunney said there”s still a public misconception regarding Habitat for Humanity, and many people believe the organization gives free homes to individuals in need.
However, in addition to the application process and required manual labor, Bunney said Partner Families also need to save a $1,000 down payment as well as make mortgage payments for their home.
“I think that so many people don”t know, people that have lived here forever, don”t know there”s a Habitat store,” Bunney said. “That”s kind of like a thrift store. For me, it”s been like, “Wow, there”s really a lot of people who don”t know about Habitat in the community.””
The house was dedicated to Bunney and her daughters Jan. 30 of this year, and although fulfilling the time commitment that came with building the house was difficult at times, Bunney said she and her family couldn”t be happier.
“Throughout the process of course it got old that every Saturday I had to go and build,” Bunney said. “There were rough points where (my daughters) were like, “Oh gosh,” but as they saw it look more and more like a house, I kept saying, “It will all be worth it,” and now they”re really super excited to get unpacked and start thinking about what color they want to paint their rooms.”
Corrin Bond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org