A Home To Be Proud Of
By Amanda Wurtz, HFH PR Committee
A safer neighborhood and a deeper sense of home. Those are just a couple of ways that life has improved for Habitat for Humanity homeowner Coreen Graham and her children, Raquel, 14 and Austin, 19.
"Moving here was amazing," said Coreen, who has lived in the north Moorhead home with her children since 2008. "I feel proud of where I live."
Coreen's last home was a 1970s trailer with two bedrooms and one bathroom. It had character. Electrical issues meant they couldn't have more than two appliances operating at once or the walls would heat up and smell like dead fish. Space issues meant that family members and friends weren't able to stay overnight. Concerns of neighborhood safety and being near highly traveled Highway 10 meant her children were restricted in the areas where they could play and ride their bikes. And the list went on.
"I didn't have friends over very often because other people's homes were nicer," added Raquel.
While the monthly trailer fees were affordable and she was able to save money, Coreen felt completely stuck with her housing situation. "I wanted something better but I didn't think I could do it."
In 2007, she contacted a bank and was pre-approved for a home loan. But, every home that she looked at within the loan approval range didn't put her in a much better spot than the trailer. Even the one that she was ready to put an offer on would have meant that she would have to go on food assistance to make ends meet.
That's when she decided to pursue applying for a Habitat for Humanity home as her sister Danette had recommended. That fall, she filled out the application thoroughly and continued through the interview and home visit steps.
In early 2008, Coreen learned that she was chosen as a partner family for the upcoming build season. She was volunteering at the Habitat ReStore that day and couldn't contain her emotions. She hugged Habitat volunteer Mary Jane Haugen and ran home to tell a friend who danced around the room with her. The announcements to friends and family continued to be met with tears of joy and shouts of happiness. "I put together Bob the Builder bags tool kits and put a simple message of 'I got it' in the bags," Coreen recalls. "I left the bags at people's houses or had another person give it to them and the reactions were incredible."
She quickly embraced her sweat equity hour requirements and volunteered more than 500 hours that year, well above the 250 hour minimum. "I took vacation during the Blitz Build week and when I wasn't working my kids and I were putting in volunteer hours with Habitat for Humanity."
Gratitude filled her heart and outpoured in her actions towards volunteers and donors. "I wrote individual thank you notes and also made gift baskets for some of the crew leaders," Coreen said.
Soon, the home was completed and the dedication was underway. This is the place that they call home and feel secure in their living space. The neighborhood is safe and the families in the area look out for one another, explained Coreen. "We're all like one big family."
The smile on her face doesn't go away as she describes so many ways her life has changed since the day she moved into the simple, affordable 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home.
For years, Coreen and Raquel were sharing a room and now they each get their own. They have two bathrooms which is more accommodating for the family and guests. Birthday and holiday parties are more comfortable because the living space has doubled. Family members are able to stay over on occasion.
And, when Coreen learned that her Dad had stage 4 lung cancer, she had the space to care for him in her house. "To do this, Raquel and I had to share a room again for a couple of months, but it was worth it to have that time with him before he passed away."
Other things have improved for Coreen as well. The new home location placed the children on the bus route to St. Joseph Catholic School. "The bus didn't stop near our trailer and when I worked early mornings at McDonald's, I had the kids stay over at my Mom's house to bring them to school."
She's now working for Clay County in the Social Services Department and the days of juggling two jobs and working weekends are behind her. "I have a regular work schedule," said Coreen. "Being home means so much. This place is home."
Although Coreen knew little about Habitat for Humanity when she applied for her home, she has become a strong supporter of the mission. She's even served on the Family Selection Committee in recent years. "Anytime they call me to help with something, I am there if I am available. There is no way I can pay them back for what they did for me and my family."
If you'd like to help us build more homes for families like the Grahams, please cosider a donation. Click here or text Home50 to 41444.
Coreen Graham (middle) thoroughly enjoyed volunteering with others as her new home was constructed in the summer of 2008.