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Home, sweet home: Habitat for Humanity project completed in Mingo Junction

Enjoying the view from a Habitat for Humanity project in Mingo Junction were, from back left, James Mowry, 9; his mother, Gina; sister Sophia, 6; brother Bennet, 1; and father, Bryant; and front, Ryan Healy, director of operations for Encino Energy; Jackie Stewart, director of external affairs for Encino Energy; and Dee Zombotti of Williams Energy. (Contributed photo)

MINGO JUNCTION — At the precise moment she became a first-time homeowner Friday afternoon, Gina Mowry couldn’t bring herself to talk.

“I’m going to cry,” she told her husband. “You do it.”

Mowry and her husband, Bryant, had just made their first payment and, in return, received the keys to their first house, a newly renovated, 1,200-square-foot single family home in Mingo Junction built in 1949. It has four bedrooms, one bath, a patio, car port and detached garage, with a new kitchen, all new appliances, new flooring, air conditioning, a new roof and new porch railing.

The home was purchased and fully renovated through Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio.

To qualify, prospective buyers must currently be living in substandard housing, have a steady income and be willing to partner with Habitat, providing “sweat equity” — working on their own and other Habitat properties, participating in Homeowner Maintenance Education and completing financial literacy courses, among other things.

In return, future homeowners get either a new build or an existing home that’s been totally renovated. Either way, the home comes with a no interest mortgage.

“A lot of times, they pay less on their mortgage than they paid in rent,” said Kevin Miller, director of Communication for Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio.

Because the existing housing stock is so extensive in Steubenville and Mingo Junction, Miller said it only made sense to renovate a property. The Mowrys were able to choose their house as well as all the finishes — everything from kitchen countertops to flooring, backsplash and paint colors.

Encino Energy and Williams Energy had provided financial assistance as well as volunteers to help with the rehab.

Bryant Mowry did the heavy lifting for his family, completing the 250 sweat equity hours required of one applicant so his wife could focus on their three children, including 9-year-old James, who is severely autistic, 6-year-old Sophia and Bennet, 1.

“We didn’t expect to get picked so fast,” Bryant Mowry said. “Some people have to wait a little longer, but the fact that it’s a rehab made it (faster).”

The couple has been living in a two bedroom rental property in Steubenville. Because James needs a sensory-controlled room of his own, the couple had shared the other bedroom with their two younger children.

Bryant Mowry said it will be “nice to have a place the kids can run around, be able to play, and we won’t have to worry.”

“I just want my kids to be safe,” his wife chimed in prior to the dedication. “That’s really all that matters.”

Courtney Brown, Habitat’s Family Partnership director, said it’s all about “giving great people a shot at changing the future for their family,” pointing out the family applied for the program two years ago.

“I don’t think we can fully understand what it means for these two to be able to provide for their family,” she added, pointing out Bryant Mowry drove to Dennison to labor at another Habitat House or Canton to complete his required classes.

Mowry said the best part about the experience was “getting to work with a lot of really great people, partner families as well as volunteers.”

“It’s about people working together to make great things happen,” he told the group assembled for Friday’s dedication.

Williams Energy volunteer Dee Zombotti said it was a “different experience” for her team.

“We’ve done a lot of volunteer work at Williams, but never anything like that,” she said.

Encino Energy’s Jackie Stewart, director of external affairs, said community partnership is a priority and their relationship with Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio “demonstrates our ongoing commitment to invest our time and financial resources to meaningful projects.”

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