BENNINGTON — A mother and her two children were welcomed into their own home on Sunday, after Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity (BAHfH) spent four months rehabilitating the 1930s house at 334 North Branch St.
Rebecca King applied to be a homebuyer at the end of February, and was just accepted a few weeks ago.
"We were about to leave Bennington," she said. "But, I prayed a lot and prayed out loud one night and the next morning I got the call. I said 'How much more of a sign is that?'"
King and her two children, 9-year-old Isaiha and 6-year-old Anyiha, no longer have to get permission from a landlord to have a dog or set up a playset. Isaiha claimed the large maple tree in the back yard that already has workings to build a treehouse.
"I'm excited no one can boss us around anymore," Isaiha said. "The landlord was always mean to us. We never had a yard to play in."
"It's true," King said.
The siblings also get their own rooms now after sharing for a year.
Because King was accepted just recently, she plans to put her sweat equity of 200 hours into constructing the next Habitat home on North Branch Street.
"I'm looking forward to paying it forward," she said. "I like hammering and doing sheet rock. I may not be good at it but I like to do it."
In January, Jim Goodine of Blue Heron Construction volunteered to do energy efficient assessments on the home.
According to the work scope, it cost $6,600 to make the home more efficient. That included spray foam insulation all throughout the basement, air sealing the attic flat, putting gaskets on outlets and switches, weather stripping all doors, air sealing the chimney chase, replacing the basement columns and other insulation.
Much insulation was necessary because original construction utilized 12-foot support beams that started in the basement and went up to the second floor, which allowed for air to escape easier.
The air flow reduction decreased to 58.9 percent and the heat efficiency increased to 44 percent.
The home was purchased in 2006 without a full basement or kitchen, but has since been expanded by the owner.
The simplest suggestion Goodine made during his January assessment was the child safety plugs for electrical outlets that, depending on how many, amount to about $25.
"If there's one thing you can do for your house, go to Home Depot and get a packet of the foam gaskets and go around and put gaskets on all the outlets in your house," Goodine told the Banner in January. "It's absolutely the best return you'll ever get on your dollar."
JD Sprayfoam insulated the basement and Goodine built a memory bench that sits inside the home's back entrance.
In April, Goodine and Efficiency Vermont — a Habitat partner — invited 20 community landlords to tour the home and learn about the energy audit. Three attended.
"All three of those fellows who were here left with one or more better ideas they can use in their own apartment rentals and the very old building stock that is in the town of Bennington," said BAHfH Executive Director Susan Sommer.
Students and staff from Bennington College, Castleton State University and Southern Vermont College helped with the renovations on the first Day of Caring.
BAHfH will continue to develop on Jennifer Lane in Manchester as well as North Branch Street. The organization is currently accepting applications for homebuyers in Manchester and Bennington. Applicants must have a definite need for better housing and earn $27,000 for a family of one and $59,300 for a family of eight. Applicants must have lived or worked in the county for the last 12 months. For more information, visit BenningtonAreaHabitat.com