Hermiston family sees ‘Habitat’ dream home become a reality

<p>Betsy Jones, top center, poses for a photo with her family in front of her newly completed home. Jones partnered with Oregon Trail Habitat for Humanity to construct the house.</p>

It has been years in the making, but Betsy Jones saw her American dream come true Saturday when she cut the congratulatory ribbon to her newly completed home in Hermiston.

Last spring, Jones filled out an application for the Oregon Trail Habitat for Humanity partnership, which helps people build and purchase new homes. Her application marked the second she had submitted. The first she had submitted during the previous application period was not selected.

“I was living in a not-so-good neighborhood,” Jones said of when she applied for the second time. “Something told me to give it a shot again. So, I did and I got chosen.”

Jones said she learned her application was accepted on her daughter Audrey’s fifth birthday last spring.

“They came and told me I got it,” she said. “So that was a big day.”

Participants are required to put in at least 500 hours of “sweat equity”?into the project, and, upon completion, purchase the house at cost with arrangements for a 20- to 30-year no-interest loan.

“They do pay for the house,” Oregon Trail Board President Georgie Todd said of those selected for the partnership. “They have to pay the insurance and taxes on it. It truly is a partnership with us. It is not a give-away program like a lot of people believe it is.”

Jones decided on a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house for her and her six children, who range in age from 5 to 14. Since breaking ground in April of last year, she has since dedicated more than 600 hours of physical labor in building the house. “It is such a relief,” Jones said of the house becoming a reality. “It was definitely a learning experience. At first I didn’t see it, but then, as the walls started going up, it started to become more of a reality.”

Oregon Trail Habitat for Humanity office manager Jamie Cleaver said the selection committee looks for three main criteria when selecting applicants for the program: those who show the most willingness to partner with the organization, those who show the greatest need for the home and those who show they are able to pay for the home.

“We don’t want to ever let the mortgage be a burden to families,” Todd said.

Todd said when the organization partners with folks, it is looking for people who fall in the 30 to 80 percent median income range in the county, which equates to approximately $20,000 to $40,000 of household income per year.

Todd said what really made the difference in Jones’ application this time around was the growth in her income.

Jones has worked at Walmart for more than 11 years and recently was promoted to zone merchandise supervisor, which helped her secure the partnership because Todd said Jones is now in a better financial situation to pay her mortgage.

Todd said the main goal of the Habitat for Humanity organization is to provide individuals in need with a respectable place to live.

“It is truly your home,” she said at Saturday’s ceremony.

During the home dedication Saturday, Oregon Trail officials sang and blessed the home with prayer and presented the Jones family with a Bible.

“The foundation is the substructure that is going to make this building able to stand storms and many years of life,” member Craig Satter said. “We would like to present this to you for the foundation of your life ... It will serve you for many years.”

Todd said the family has plans to move into their new home by Nov. 1.

The Oregon?Trail Habitat for Humanity has helped to build 12 homes so far in Hermiston,?Pendleton,?Stanfield and Umatilla. Cleaver said because it takes approximately a year and a half to build a home, the organization helps build a home about once every three years. She said even though the application period for the program is currently closed, for more information, call 541-567-1509 or visit http://www.oregontrailhabitat.com

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