Habitat For Humanity fills a need

PROUD HOMEOWNERS — Gabrielle Keller and William Courtney, center, stand Tuesday with Mayor Jerry Barilla and Councilwoman at Large Kimberly Hahn on the lawn of their new home at 214 Harvard Blvd. Courtney and Keller took a break from putting finishing touches to interior paint to talk with the mayor and councilwoman and receive their keys in a ceremony from the mayor. The couple and their four children will be closing Friday on the house they’ve worked on for months with Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio. -- Paul Giannamore

STEUBENVILLE — William Courtney and Gabrielle Keller wanted a better home for their four children.

Friday, they’ll take possession of 214 Harvard Blvd., where they and Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio have been working for about a year, restoring the home and getting it ready for occupancy.

Habitat is working in Steubenville as part of a regional effort, building or restoring homes as needed for qualifying families who are able to provide sweat equity or community service toward the home.

For Courtney and Keller, the home is the answer to about three years of searching for a better place for their children. Courtney said his mother’s boyfriend told them about Habitat, and they put in an application. That was about a year ago, and Courtney and Keller said it’s been “the better half of this year” to complete the work in the house.

The home was cleaned up, painted inside, a boiler heating system was replaced with a modern furnace and ductwork, a new water heater was installed, basement glass block windows were put in place and new concrete replaced the crumbling driveway and walkways.

Habitat doesn’t require its homeowners to be experts at contracting work.

“Along the way, we’ve learned new things about owning a home,” Keller said.

“It’s a blessing. It’s really nice to get the kids into a better home and a better life,” said Courtney.

The couple is moving to Harvard Avenue from their residence in Wintersville. He works at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center off state Route 43 as well as at the Pilot Flying J Travel Center off state Route 7 at Third Street. She is a stay-at-home mom to four children ranging in age from 5 to 14.

With working on the home comes a sense of pride.

“My kids can see what better opportunities are out there and what hard work gets you,” he said.

During a ceremonial transfer of ownership — the actual closing is Friday — Courtney handed the first payment to Mayor Jerry Barilla who handed Courtney the keys to his new home. Barilla handed the check to Habitat’s Aaron Brown, director of neighborhood investment for Habitat for Humanity for East Central Ohio.

Brown explained Habitat for East Central Ohio was formed in 2015 when the organization’s Tuscarawas County affiliate disbanded. He said Habitat International moved to regionalize the organization from Canton through Tuscarawas, Harrison and Jefferson counties to fill a void locally.

The home on Harvard Boulevard is the first project done in Steubenville.

“We have been preserving homes since 2008, after the housing crisis. We do quite a few and it’s starting to surpass our new construction,” he said. He said home preservation efforts are better sometimes for cash-strapped families because of the potentially lower cost of the renovations compared with new construction.

The Harvard Boulevard home was vacant and was bank owned when Habitat acquired it for $30,000. Another $30,000 worth of renovations have been done. The owners take possession of Habitat homes at zero percent interest.

Barilla said, “I think this is just a fantastic opportunity to showcase what young people can do, what any family can do to improve themselves by taking advantage of Habitat for Humanity. I’m excited for this young couple. This is a dream of America, to be able to grow up and have a job and have your own home to provide for your children to provide for their future.”

Barilla said he was “elated” by the work done through Habitat and its crews, Courtney and Keller. He complimented Courtney for having the drive to work at two jobs to support his family.

Habitat is a Christian-based organization, and the workers and family broke for prayer after the ceremony.

“It’s less than a week away and the family will be living here, and that is an amazing, amazing thing,” said Brown during the prayer.


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