As the calendar turned a new page to 2018, so did the lives of Tomira Laws and her twin 9-year old boys, Gervon and Gerron Clark.
“It feels so good to finally have the home we’ve always wanted,” Laws said.
Laws and her boys were the latest recipients of a new home from the Lewis & Clark Habitat For Humanity O’Fallon chapter, a non-profit organization made up of volunteers who build the homes for families in need who also meet certain qualifications.
Laws said the home is a “dream come true” for herself and her sons.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
“It was a lot of long, hard work, and you have to be dedicated and determined, but we made it, and it was worth every drop of sweat, every tear. And now we are all smiles,” said Laws a single, working mother.
The family was able to begin moving boxes in Dec. 29.
“Everybody at Habitat was very, very helpful. Some of the volunteers even spent their New Year’s Day bringing over the boys’ bikes and stuff. That day was just awesome, so great,” Laws said.
Settling in has been a work in progress, but there’s no rush, she said.
“What’s important is we are together and have a beautiful home to call our own, (which) we helped with, too,” Laws said.
Being able to have their own space is the boys’ favorite part of the new home.
Gervon said, “I like it, having our own rooms.”
“It’s good,” said Gerron.
Part of the deal of being new homeowner was putting 200 “sweat equity” hours into the home’s construction. The boys used the opportunity to help with building their rooms.
Gervon’s favorite memory during the build was “getting to use the hammer in my room.”
Similarly, Gerron said, he “loved using the drill in his room.”
“The sweat equity was the best part for me, because I learned a lot of things. I even learned how to work a hammer. I was working it wrong all those years,” Laws said, laughingly.
While 200 hours may seem like a long time, Laws said, it’s actually not.
“When you’re working on something that you’re gonna have for a lifetime, or, you know, for years to come, it just makes it so much better. I enjoyed every minute,” she said.
Before she was selected to be the recipient O’Fallon Habitat’s third built home, Laws said she was uncertain about the future. Her rent for her old O’Fallon apartment was going up, due to recent remodeling, and it was going to be far more than she could afford.
“I didn’t know what we were going to do,” Laws said.
According to Laws, she had applied to be a homeowner with the O’Fallon Habitat chapter before, but wasn’t selected.
Laws had almost given up hope, she said.
“A friend of mine told me about another information meeting for another house, and she encouraged me to go. So I did,” Laws said.
It was a total game changer for her, she said.
“The application process is long, and it may seem like they’re all in your business, but they’re making sure it’s going to someone who deserves it,” Laws said.
Laws has some advice for those families who may be interested in applying someday through Habitat.
“If you see an opportunity, go for it — no matter how much information they’re asking for or hard it may seem, and be determined. Never give up,” Laws said.
Nuts and bolts
In order to be considered for a Habitat home, prospective owners must meet certain qualifications and must qualify for assistance with financing, provide 200 sweat equity hours during the build, and take classes on home ownership and home repair at Southern Illinois Community College.
The homes are built from money collected through volunteer fundraisers and donations. A majority of supplies, ranging from services to building materials to appliances and flooring or cabinetry, are all sourced from local business donations.
For those interested in helping, either with fund-raising, donations or volunteering, contact acting chapter president Ken Beeman at 618-210-5617.
Next home coming
The first O’Fallon Habitat chapter home was built in 2013. This spring, the chapter will break ground on its fourth home build.
New homeowner partner selected for the Habitat chapter’s fourth home is Sherna Horton, a mother of two.
The ceremonial ground breaking and blessing is slated for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 10 at 204 Carson Drive. The ceremony will be conducted by Pastor Robert Downs of Faith Lutheran Church in O’Fallon.
“We hope to begin excavation for the footings in March. We have lined up in-kind" donors and funding for the fourth house,” Beeman said.
For more information visit www.ofallonhabitat.org.