Photo: Melinda Brumbaugh and children (front and center) are joined by project leaders to cut the ribbon on their new Habitat home.
“An answer to our prayers”: Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity Builds New Home for Family of Seven, Utilizing Support from State Housing Fund
It was a celebration of new beginnings for Melinda Brumbaugh and her children — three small and three grown — as the family gathered with project leaders at 422 West 6th Street in Fremont yesterday to dedicate their newly-built Habitat for Humanity home, made possible in part by the State of Nebraska’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (NAHTF).
“For our family this means freedom,” Brumbaugh said. “It’s a place my kids can be proud to call home.”
It was 2019 when the Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity received word of its successful application for $500,000 under the NAHTF, which is administered by the Department of Economic Development (DED). The nonprofit would use the funds to further its mission of providing quality homes for families in need.
“This $500,000 is enabling us to do a lot,” said Joy McKay, Executive Director of the Fremont Habitat branch.
For one, McKay said, the funds financed the demolition of two vacant units to make way for two new builds — the first of which was dedicated yesterday to the Brumbaugh family, the other, under construction.
What’s more, the award will help Habitat provide 30-year, zero percent interest financing for the families who occupy the homes.
“Think of the difference that can make in someone’s life,” said McKay. “That kind of support is directly in line with what we try to do as an organization.”
In addition, part of the $500,000 is enabling Fremont Area Habitat to launch a long-anticipated Home Repair Program, which will provide major home fixes and upgrades for families in need — again, harnessing zero percent interest loans.
“The Trust Fund has gotten us to a place where we can finally get the ball rolling with the first round of our program for around 10 families,” said McKay. “As those loans start to be repaid, we’ll be able to assist even more homeowners.”
Grant administrator Northeast Nebraska Development District is working with Habitat to implement the NAHTF funding. Housing Specialist Martin Griffith said the Repair Program will have a major impact in terms of addressing Fremont’s need for quality, affordable homes.
“There’s a need for housing that construction frankly can’t keep up with,” he said. “Habitat’s Repair Program is a great use of the existing housing stock to tend to that need. When families move to a bigger or more expensive home, their rehabilitated home will be a great affordable place for the next family that comes along.”
A single mother of six, Brumbaugh says her family’s new residence is like a dream come true. She even had a say in the style and layout, she said, contributing over 250 hours of her own “sweat equity” to the build, per Habitat’s exchange model.
“Every other place we’ve been able to afford has always been too small, and everyone has had to share a room,” she said. “This just means the world to us.”
At the dedication ceremony, local charities presented the family with gifts and memorabilia to make their new house feel even more like home: a commemorative hammer, a bible, a bookshelf — the first piece of furniture — a laundry basket with odds and ends, detergent and knickknacks.
“The dedication is my favorite part of the whole process I think,” said McKay. “You get to celebrate with the family and share in their joy. It still feels like the first time each time we dedicate a home.”
DED Northeast Nebraska Housing Consultant Barb Pierce was also in attendance. Speaking on behalf of the Department, she said the State feels privileged to administer a high-impact program like the NAHTF, which has financed literally thousands of home builds, rehabilitations, homebuyer loans and other activities since its inception in 1996.
“Today’s celebration is exactly why we do what we do at DED,” said Pierce. “We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide support to organizations like Fremont Area Habitat. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that is changing lives and shaping futures in this community and in many others across Nebraska. We want to extend our appreciation to Fremont Area Habitat for their achievements with this award, and to congratulate the Brumbaugh family on their beautiful new home.”
As Melinda Brumbaugh and her children posed for photos, addressed the local media and gave tours of their nearly-finished residence, which will be ready in July, there were smiles, excited laughter, and — at least for Brumbaugh — the occasional tears of joy for what was and what’s to come.
“For the longest time my girls and I would pray before we went to bed, ‘Lord, please open some doors.’ This is an answer to our prayers. I tell them all the time, if you pray and pray and pray, and hope and hope and hope, good things will happen in time.”
For more information about the NAHTF, visit opportunity.nebraska.gov.