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Habitat selects first homeowner

Habitat selects first homeowner
Habitat selects first homeowner
Charles Crawford, left, and Carl Snyder, right, point out the back property line of the site of the first Habitat of Humanity of Harrison County house. James Sullivan, the first homeowner, and his daughter, Chelsea, are with other Habitat board members Betty Sieberns, Cecil Trobaugh and Bill Harrod. (Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor)

Shocked and amazed. That’s how James Sullivan of Corydon felt when he learned he’d been selected as the Habitat of Humanity of Harrison County’s first homeowner.
‘I couldn’t believe they picked me,’ said the 37-year-old single parent.
‘I didn’t even know Habitat was planning to build a home in the county’ until last summer, Sullivan said, when he participated in a housing program through Harrison County Community Services. ‘I never thought it would actually happen.’
Sullivan and his daughter, Chelsea, visited the site, which is off Oliver Street in south Corydon, last week with some of the Habitat board members.
‘It looks like a really nice place,’ said Sullivan, who now rents a two-bedroom apartment.
Chelsea, who will be 10 on Sunday, was excited about getting a house. She used her grandmother’s camera to take pictures of the vacant lot.
‘Her idea of having a house is a rabbit hutch and a puppy and her own backyard,’ Sullivan said.
Habitat for Humanity is a not-for-profit, ecumenical Christian organization committed to helping people build affordable homes. Affordable, as defined by Habitat, is between $60,000 and $90,000. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built or rehabilitated more than 85,000 houses throughout the United States and in 60 other countries.
Since the Harrison County affiliate was approved in September 2000, volunteers have been busy writing grants, raising funds, broadening its support system, and partnering with churches and individuals who want to help Habitat.
A family selection committee reviewed dozens of applications in the process of selecting its first homeowner. To be eligible, applicants had to meet three requirements: A need for decent housing; the ability to repay a no-interest loan, and a willingness to become partners in the program, such as helping with construction of the home.
A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Sullivan moved to the Ramsey area with his mother, Betsy Talley, and stepfather, when he was seven. He graduated from North Harrison High School in 1984.
After graduation, Sullivan served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, working as an avionics technician. When Sullivan left the service, he worked for awhile in Fort Wayne for an aerospace company but was laid off.
Sullivan went back to what he knew: the military. He joined the U.S. Army and worked on helicopters while stationed in Virginia. He served two years with a reserves unit in Fort Knox, Ky.
He now works as a parts counter person for Town and Country Ford in Louisville. That’s where he was when he received word that he had been selected as the first homeowner.
Board member Michelle Ayres ‘was so excited (for Sullivan) that she actually called me from the parking lot’ after the committee made its decision, Sullivan said.
Sullivan then called his mother, who was ‘ecstatic,’ and she woke Chelsea to tell her.
Part of the agreement with Habitat is for the homeowner to donate 400 hours of ‘sweat equity.’
Sullivan told board members last week that he was planning to mow the vacant lot. The grass was getting pretty tall. He also hopes to be able to ‘hammer a few nails’ during construction and help paint. He will have input in selecting things, such as the color of the carpet, paint and appliances.
And he will be selecting a house plan soon from four possibilities, as determined by the Habitat board.
‘I feel really blessed,’ said Sullivan. ‘I can’t say thanks enough to everybody. This is one of those life-altering things.’
Another Habitat requirement is for homeowners to help with each additional house that’s constructed.
Sullivan’s ready.
‘If I can be there to help somebody else get a house, that’s great,’ he said. ‘Every time they put up a house, I’m going to be there to help.
‘You’ve got to give back.’