Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity has spent 20 years helping local families become home owners. The organization has seen the need for help increase as the economy stays slow, and hopes to  increase its reach in years to come.

This time last year, Vivian Loder, her husband David and her four daughters were living in a three-bedroom trailer on Dover/Kenton Road near Cheswold. As if the home weren’t crowded enough, Vivian’s mother was living with the family while recovering from knee surgery, and her brother had moved in after a run of tough times in North Carolina.

The Loders’ love and faith kept them strong, but the family couldn’t help but dream of the day they’d be able to build a new house on the small plot of land east of Dover that David had acquired nearly a decade ago.
With average credit and four children to feed and clothe, Vivian and David had little choice but to be satisfied with their dreams, and do the best they could to make their living situation work.

But the Loders’ outlook changed when Vivian’s sister Victoria, an AmeriCorps worker, passed along information about Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity and encouraged her to apply for a spot on the organization’s 2010 project list.

Within a few weeks, the Loders’ application for a Habitat project had been accepted and the family was on its way to building the home they had dreamed of.

On Oct. 14, the Loders moved into their new three-bedroom house on White Oak Road, and became the 20th family Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity has helped achieve home ownership in its 20 years of existence.

“It was a great experience, it was a learning experience. Just to know we put our hands on our home, that we helped build it,” Vivian said. “To see other people walk into your lives and come build a house for you, knowing there are people out there who take time to build a house for a family that’s really in need.”

That spirit of volunteerism, combined with a commitment to help families better themselves, has allowed Central Delaware Habitat to grow from providing housing assistance one family at a time, to helping four or five families become homeowners in a single year.

Executive Director Jocelyn McBride has been with the organization since 2009. Before that, she spent time in Mississippi helping build houses for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

She said Habitat for Humanity isn’t about handing out new homes to needy families that ask for help, it’s about increasing the availability of affordable housing.

“A two-bedroom apartment in Kent County is $828 [per month], that’s the fair market value, and our typical mortgage for home ownership averages around $500, that’s why we need Habitat for Humanity,” she said. “We’re providing an opportunity for home ownership, to be empowered and to reap the rewards of home ownership.”

Bryant Bell and his fellow Dover Lions Club members spent time working on the 22nd Central Delaware Habitat house, now nearing completion.

He said the experience is just as rewarding for volunteers as it must be for the homeowners themselves.

“I see the people out there trying to better their life, maybe they had a rough turn somewhere and they’re trying to get back on track,” he said. “It’s nice to know there’s something like that out there; it could be you or me.”

With the economy in its current state, McBride said the demand for services like her organization provides has expanded. Her office gets dozens of calls monthly from people seeking help, and when Central Delaware Habitat hosts outreach events, it’s not unusual to hand out 70 applications, she said.

“Just between the amount of inquiries we get on a regular basis as well as when we have a seminar, the volume of those attending to get an application just speaks that there’s a need for affordable housing,” she said. “People are on waiting lists for Section 8 and there’s just not enough housing stock that is affordable.”

McBride said Central Delaware Habitat is looking to do more to help those in need of affordable housing. Even if the organization can’t necessarily build more houses per year, she said it could be a resource for education and guidance in moving toward home ownership.

Central Delaware Habitat also is beginning to consider how it might work to help renovate houses that have been left vacant in the wake of foreclosure.

The house Bryant worked on is one such case, and he said similar projects are a good next step for the organization.

“With all the foreclosed properties and stuff out in the community, rather than boarding them up and letting them sit there and decay, there are people that need a place to live,” he said. “With organizations like Habitat, you can create a home for a family.”