It may take a village to raise a child, but it also takes a community to raise a home.
Many people throughout the Quad Cities gathered on a drizzly Saturday morning in Davenport to celebrate three new Habitat for Humanity Quad Cities houses – now owned by Godja Adjafi, Marcia Ellingsworth, and Hannah Van Trump as part of the nonprofit’s affordable homeownership program.
The tidy, single-story homes – next to each other in tan, gray and blue siding – are at 761-765-769 East 6th St., Davenport.
These homes are sponsored by The City of Davenport, Scott County Housing Council, Scott County Regional Authority, Quad City Bank & Trust, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, CNH Industrial, Russell Construction, and St. Paul Lutheran Church.
“This really will make a difference for generations to come,” said Kristi Crafton, executive director of Habitat for Humanity QC. The mortgages are affordable, no-interest mortgages, based on the homeowner’s income.
“That’s what keeps the payments affordable for families, what allows them to acquire wealth,” Crafton said, noting mortgages represent no more than 30% of family income. “So we are thrilled about that and we’re sure they’re going to have a very bright future.”
Habitat partner families must complete a minimum of 250 volunteer hours of sweat equity and attend mandatory homeownership preparation classes with the support of a volunteer mentor.
When their home build is finished, partner families purchase the home from Habitat with affordable monthly payments.
Gifts and support
On Saturday, each family received many gifts, including quilts for the adults made by Mississippi Valley Quilting Guild, and quilts for the children made by Park View Lutheran Church.
The Habitat mentors (one assigned per homeowner) provide a lot of support for the families, helping them navigate through the complex process. Often, mentors go to homeownership classes together with the owners, and help them manage their money.
The chairperson for the Family Support Committee is Belinda Holbrook, who was a mentor for Marcia Ellingsworth.
Holbrook presented blessing baskets for each family – “flowers, so your home may always know beauty; bread, so your home may never know hunger; salt, so that it may always have flavor; a candle, so that your home may never know darkness, and sugar, so that life will always be sweet.”
Holbrook also gave them a large ceremonial wooden key, and each family got a special Isabel Bloom welcome pineapple plaque sculpture.
Pam Crowe is the mentor for Godja Adjafi, who moved to the QC in 2009 from the African nation of Togo, and is a single mom with two boys, ages 5 and 8. She works at Tyson and had previously been renting an apartment in Moline.
“She’s an awesome woman,” Crowe said of Adjafi. “At the attorney’s office the other day at the closing, I gave her a hug and said, you’re a homeowner in the United States of America. And she said, ‘I did it for my boys.’”
“I’ve gone from being a mentor to being a friend,” she said. “I’ll always have this friendship with her. Also with Hannah and Marcia, too, it’s been great getting to know you.”
“It’s just been wonderful. Habitat is an amazing organization,” Crowe said. “It’s just amazing you guys can build them and they’re functional. The doorknobs work, everything works.”
“I want to thank all the staff and volunteers of Habitat for Humanity. Thank you for giving me the opportunity for becoming a homeowner,” Adjafi said. She said later she was very impressed with Habitat.
“It’s a long process; you have to be patient,” she said later. “It wasn’t too bad. I learned a lot.”
Mentor Pam Janoski, who worked with Hannah Van Trump, said this is her third Habitat family. “Even with COVID, her house was built faster than the other ones. It’s really wonderful the Habitat organization worked through COVID,” Janoski said. “Her house is lovely.”
A Lutheran pastor and Catholic priest offered blessings and prayers at the start and closing of Saturday’s event.
Partnering with the city
Davenport Mayor Mike Matson noted the city sold 10 vacant lots on 6th Street to Habitat to allow construction, and contributed federal HOME funds to help cover construction costs.
“We partnered with these folks, and we’re happy to do it, to have wonderful families who own a home in Davenport.”
“To create a neighborhood full of people, putting in the work to help them get it, it’s just cool as heck,” he said. “We love it. It’s wonderful to have families and good people.”
Wally Mook, 76, of Bettendorf, worked as site manager for his last home, after having helped start the Habitat chapter in 1993. Of the 125 homes Habitat has built in the QC, he was involved in more than half.
“I didn’t even know anything about Habitat when I was first involved in it,” Mook said. “After 30 years, I decided I didn’t want to be a liability on the construction site. It’s something for young guys.”
Mook was up on the roof of his East 6th Street Habitat house with new volunteer Jayce Van Herzeele of East Moline (who works on power lines full-time).
“He steers the ship for sure,” Van Herzeele said. “With his knowledge, I’m able to get the job done faster than I would myself. I like everyone, no complaints.”
“We had a lot of fun working together,” Mook said.
Crafton said they bought the vacant lots in 2020. “We thought, it’s much less expensive to build them next to each other, because when you have equipment to bring in, you only have one stop. It really made sense to do them together.”
Volunteers could also worked on more than one house at a time, and the homeowners really got to know each other, she said. Volunteers worked in pods of 10, because of COVID.
“It worked faster than we ever have before,” Crafton said. “It worked beautifully.”
Costs and challenges
The costs of the homes were about $40,000 more than usual (averaging $140,000), partly because the cost of lumber doubled, she said. Gas prices, shipping, subcontractors all went up in price.
“There wasn’t an item that didn’t see an increase,” Crafton said. That also made it more challenging to get more sponsors to cover costs.
“We try to make people realize, it’s not just for one family,” she said of each house. “It’s for the community; the property taxes. You get all these properties back on the tax rolls. You have a thriving neighborhood, invested homeowners.”
“You look at generations after them, who will never have to rely on social services, which saves money,” Crafton said. “If you get people to wrap their head around that, you can get them to sponsor. You look at the variety of sponsors we have, everybody stepped up.”
Prior to Saturday’s home dedication, Habitat also held a groundbreaking for the future home of Armando Aguilar, at 813 E. 6th St., Davenport.
Habitat’s new homes are transforming the block. Two homes will be finished next month and four builds will start this summer, totaling 24 Habitat homes in this neighborhood alone. Habitat will also build one new home in Rock Island this year, at 1920 9th Ave.
Habitat will hold its next dedications on the same Davenport block on June 18, for new homes at 749 and 753 E. 6th St., and will have future groundbreakings at 647, 651 and 701 E. 6th St.
Habitat for Humanity QC has now built 125 homes in the area. In addition to new home construction, they offer a home repair and wheelchair ramp program, and facilitate a Neighborhood Revitalization program in Moline’s Floreciente Neighborhood.
It also operates the Habitat ReStore (3629 Mississippi Ave., Davenport), which sells new and gently used home and building materials (doors, cabinets, windows, lighting, flooring, tools, hardware, plumbing, etc.), furniture, appliances, and home medical equipment.
For more information, visit its website.