Habitat seeks families in need of a home, volunteers


MANCHESTER -- Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity is looking for applicants for a Pownal build, and look for volunteers for "A Brush with Kindness."

With a couple builds underway in Manchester this summer, Habitat has its eyes set on a project at a recently purchased lot on Swallow Hill Road in Pownal for next year. Alicia Romac of Habitat's family selection committee said they have not yet had any applicants for the Pownal home.

Habitat runs on a revolving fund fed by the repayment of mortgages by families from previous builds, which have a zero-percent interest. Most of the labor is contributed to by volunteers and volunteer contractors with their own equipment. The organization only builds one or two homes a year in the Shires, to the extent that they have the money for the materials.

Intermittently between home builds, Habitat runs its "A Brush with Kindness" program that brings volunteers to existing homes for interior and exterior repairs. The goal of the program is to make homes safer, healthier and more energy efficient. Romac said they are always looking for applications for this program as well, but what they really need are volunteers.

The "A Brush with Kindness" program is in its fourth year. Like the repayment of a mortgage, families that accept improvements for painting, cleanup, landscaping, weatherization and handicapped accessibility commit to a repayment plan for materials.

"We sit down with families on a case-by-case basis to determine what their needs are and how we can have the greatest impact for the least cost and then we go forward," Romac said.

Habitat hopes to choose a family for next year's build in Pownal by next summer. There is a range of income needed to apply based on the size of a household, but monthly repayments range from $700 to $850 including taxes and insurance for a 25 to 30 year interest-free mortgage. Applicants must live or work in Bennington County to apply.

Romac said the organization doesn't discriminate, and welcome any low-income families to apply as long as they can afford monthly payments and commit time on the build. "We have single parents, same-gender couples, blended families," she said. "A family is the unit of people that you care about: That's what constitutes a family to us."

Habitat works with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southern Vermont College to bring in volunteers, but Romac said they need more for the season. To volunteer or to apply for the Pownal home or "A Brush with Kindness," call Habitat at (802) 367-1000 or email bennhabitat@yahoo.com.

"You don't have to be handy in order to volunteer for one of these projects," Romac said. "You can just be someone who bakes muffins and brings them to the crew."

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg.


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