By Tim Lilley
The Message editor
“Everyone deserves a decent place to live.”
Everyone who receives an email from Deacon Mark McDonald finds that powerful message just below his signature. Make no mistake – that is not a simple nod to social justice. It is a mission statement.
Deacon Mark is the building chairman for a committee that will break ground Aug. 26 on a Habitat for Humanity home in Poseyville – the first such construction in northern Posey County. It certainly isn’t expected to be be the only Habitat build in the area.
He said, “We have already begun the search for our next family and finalizing purchase of property for additional homes.” He added that a possible lot in Cynthiana is currently being surveyed.
‘We need family homes’
Three years ago, Deacon Mark attended a meeting of Poseyville citizens hosted in a private home. He recalled, “A member of the Poseyville Town Council, Bruce Baker, stood quickly when asked what the town needed. He was clear and concise. ‘We need homes. There are jobs here but nowhere for families to sleep.’”
Deacon Mark said a coordinating committee formed that night and discussed things with Father Ed Schnur, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Poseyville and St. Wendel Parish in St. Wendel, who encouraged them to move forward.
He added, “It was noted at that meeting that our young people are rushing to get out of town upon graduation, hunting for opportunities elsewhere. Further discussion was held regarding the significant decline of church attendance. Our pews were emptying – no people, no church. There is also a great need to rebuild our aging homes, and provide apartments and subdivisions to support jobs moving into the area.”
The coordinating committee soon approached Habitat for Humanity in Evansville, and the organization welcomed the northern Posey County opportunity with open arms. Deacon Mark said Habitat was the perfect partner because the approach did not require governmental participation but would depend on the commitment of citizens, and would be an opening to bring cooperation from other local churches that were also suffering loss of membership.
He added that Habitat for Humanity was “openly excited with the chance to build in our rural communities. It had never occurred, but that did not slow them down.”
One of the most important elements of the citizens’ commitment that Deacon Mark mentioned involves fundraising for builds. The coordinating committee enjoyed a wonderful response from individuals and businesses. Deacon Mark provided the following summary of fundraising that has occurred:
- The first fundraiser was a sale of locally created art to parish members, and there was a great response.
- A parish mailing was initiated with success.
- The St. Wendel Knights of St. John sponsored a takeout chicken dinner. GAF of Mt. Vernon plugged into this with a $15,000 matching grant. The end result was $36,000.
- A number of local churches made parish donations.
- Toyota Corporation contributed $50,000.
- The Posey County Community Foundation donated $10,000.
- GAF also donated all the roofing for the first home.
- A number of parish members made donations using matching grants coming from their employers.
- The Mt. Vernon Homeless Shelter donated $7,000 from the sale of shelter-owned property.
- There was and continue to be donations from anonymous donors.
- Many parish organizations made significant donations.
- A quilt was raffled by the St. Francis Xavier Quilters Club in memory of Benedictine Sister Leta Zeller.
The land for the first home came in the form of an anonymous donation. Deacon Mark explained, “There was no cost to us at all, and this was a wonderful blessing.” The committee continues to pursue the purchase of other lots through northern Posey County. As noted above, a Cynthiana property is already being surveyed.
In Poseyville, groundbreaking for the first home happens on the publication date of this issue of The Message at 80 East Oak, just south of St. Francis Xavier Church. It will feature six bedrooms because the family includes six children and their parents. Deacon Mark said, “There are a number of floor plans that Habitat utilizes. The family meets with the Habitat building manager to choose the floor plan suitable for them.”
He said the schedule calls for the home to be completed by the end of the year, but depending on favorable weather, and the availability of licensed contractors required by Habitat. Volunteer labor will also play a major role. Deacon Mark said, “Most volunteers are coming from St. Francis Xavier and St. Wendel parishes, but many concerned adults and teens are responding because they are called to the cause. It has become a true community effort."
Although the plan is to finish the Poseyville home before starting on another build, Deacon Mark said that the committee is already searching for its next family.
Potential Habitat families are active participants in the entire process. “Habitat does not give away homes,” Deacon Mark explained. “Our new home owners must complete specific requirements such as having full-time employment, and being capable of paying a zero-interest mortgage.”
All potential Habitat homeowners also participate in required classes to gain skills needed as a home owner such as budget setting, how to make repairs, retirement planning and being a good neighbor. They must complete 300 hours of sweat equity by working on their home, other Habitat homes and additional volunteer projects approved by Habitat.
If you wish to make a donation, checks can be sent to Habitat for Humanity of Evansville, 560 East Diamond Avenue, Evansville, IN 47711. Add a note to the memo line of your check that reads North Posey Build.
For more information, call Deacon Mark at 812-760-0585 or email [email protected].