ST. PARIS – After years of trying to acquire land in the village for one of its new home builds, Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County Ohio (HFHCCO) is returning to the western part of the county thanks to the generosity of a local couple.
Founded in 2003, HFHCCO is putting the finishing touches on its eighth new home build in the county at 218 Harmon Ave. in Urbana. When the nonprofit got its start in the early 2000s, one of its first projects took place in St. Paris, an area HFHCCO had attempted to return to without any luck.
“We had been searching for a lot (in the village) for the past five years to no avail,” said Marcia Ward, volunteer executive director for HFHCCO. “We contacted numerous Realtors as well as drove the village, but there was nothing available.”
It turns out there was in fact a property available, which was brought to Ward’s attention after she spoke about the nonprofit’s mission to members of the St. Paris First Church of God.
Following the presentation, Ward was approached by Randy Bair, who mentioned his parents, Cable-area residents Ronald and Deborah Bair, were selling their former home at 517 S. Church St., and he thought it may be an ideal location for a HFHCCO build.
Even before her son learned of HFHCCO’s search for property in St. Paris, Mrs. Bair said, the idea of working with the nonprofit had crossed her mind.
“We had a house in St. Paris that we had moved out of about four years ago in which the foundation had started to deteriorate,” she said. “We tried selling it, but due to the situation with the house, we didn’t receive much interest. I had read about Habitat for Humanity, and I thought about calling Marcia several times, but I just hadn’t done it.”
After reaching out to Ward to talk about HFHCCO’s plan for the property, the Bairs decided to work with the nonprofit as a way to give back to the community.
“The lot was worth more than what Habitat was able to pay, but we came to an agreement that satisfied both parties,” Mrs. Bair said. “Everything just fell together, and it seemed like the right thing to do.”
On Aug. 17, the property was transferred from the Bairs to HFHCCO for $3,000.
“It came down to wanting to pay it forward and help someone else out,” Mrs. Bair said. “We look forward to helping to build a house in that location in the future.”
Construction details, potential homeowners
With the deed to 517 S. Church St. in hand, Ward said, the plan is for the existing house on the lot to be demolished at the expense of HFHCCO in early 2017, while construction on the nonprofit’s ninth new home build is expected to commence as soon as the weather allows next spring.
“We are more than excited to be building in St. Paris,” she said. “We like to build in Urbana and then move to the county and the smaller villages, but it’s been very difficult to find lots that we, a nonprofit, can afford.”
Before construction gets underway, HFHCCO must find the home’s new occupants.
To jump-start the search, the nonprofit is accepting pre-applications from county residents interested in becoming first-time homeowners.
“Potential homeowners must have lived in the county for one year and must be willing to help build their home as they must commit to 250 sweat equity hours per adult in the family,” Ward said. “They must also be employed.
“The homes are not free,” she added. “HFHCCO holds the mortgage, but it is tax free.”
To help in the homeowner search, Ward said, numerous pastors in the St. Paris Federation of Churches have pledged their support in helping to locate a family and are handing out pre-applications, which can also be picked up at Jim’s Pizza Chalet, 11272 W. U.S. Route 36.
“We are truly blessed to be in this county,” Ward said. “Many (Habitat for Humanity) affiliates have had to join forces with other affiliates, and we have been blessed to maintain our singular affiliate right here in Champaign County. We are a small but mighty affiliate.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.