BY STEVE SPAULDING
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF
CHESTER, PA. — When Kenny and Tamika Gilbert and three daughters Kiana, Tiara and Kerri moved into their new home on McDowell Street here Sept. 24, 2006, the move was a milestone in their lives as well as in the work of the Delaware County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity.
"This was the first new construction that our division of Habitat has done," said David Lukens, construction site supervisor for Habitat.
Of eight projects the affiliate has started in Delaware County, the Gilbert home is the first house it has built from scratch since organizing in 1990. In the past, it has done mostly renovation work on existing homes.
Construction actually began Sept. 20, 2005, on the Gilbert home. Lukens was responsible for scheduling, materials and bidding the contractors. Plumbing work was donated by Perrotta Plumbing & Heating, with the HVAC installation donated by H&H Heating & A/C. Joe Hoke, owner-operator of H&H Heating went on to donate materials as well, including a Bryant 12-SEER air conditioner.
"Habitat contacted us and asked if we were interested in bidding the job," Hoke told CONTRACTOR. "At the time we weren't busy, so it was nice to be able to keep the guys working, and also to give back to the community."
All in all, Hoke said, the HVAC work took two of his men 10 days worth of labor. H&H Heating has been a local business for more than 20 years.
The Gilberts pitched in as well. Habitat for Humanity requires they work at least 500 hours, either onsite helping to build the house alongside Habitat volunteers, or in the organization's office. The Gilberts turned to Habitat for Humanity after an unsuccessful fiveyear struggle to secure a home loan.
"We went through many avenues," Kenny Gilbert said, "and were always turned away."
Help from the Chester Economic Development Authority and a $40,000 donation from the Episcopal Academy Parents Association allowed the
Gilberts to secure an interest-free 20-year mortgage.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that promotes home-ownership as the bedrock on which to build stronger, more prosperous families and communities. The organization has made Chester, one of the most depressed cities in the nation, a focus for its activities. According to the 2000 census, the per capita income for the city was $13,052, with about 22.8% of families and 27.2% of the population below the poverty line.
Currently, Habitat for Humanity is working on five homes in the area that it expects to complete by spring.