MARENGO – Kevin Shear, a U.S. Marine veteran, nearly fell over and needed his friend to hold him up when he received the keys to a three-bedroom ranch.
Dozens of volunteers with Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County and the Marine Corps League gathered Sunday afternoon to help move the Shears into their new home on 907 Mary Court in Marengo.
“Today has been very joyous,” said Shear, who teared up and paused to catch his breath. “It’s here, you know. It’s very overwhelming.”
Jerry Monica, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County, said the organization became aware of the Shears’ situation through the Veterans Affair Council in Woodstock.
“It’s the whole pay it forward concept,” Monica said. “It’s really a big thing for us to build a community.”
The Crystal Lake native served in the Marines from 1997 through 2002. During a training exercise, Shear suffered an injury and later developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy.
“Unfortunately, when my injury flared up again, we really went through dark periods,” Shear said. “It was really difficult to find any government help anywhere.”
A year ago, Shear, his wife, Amy, and their 3-year-old son, Lincoln, were evicted from their Crystal Lake apartment after two years. Shear’s mother, Wendy, took the homeless family into her Crystal Lake home, where they had been living until Sunday.
The Marengo home is the 20th Habitat home in McHenry County, Monica said. The homes are sold at zero-percent profit, with most of the costs pared down thanks to volunteer labor and donated materials.
“One of the myths of Habitat is that we give our houses away to poor people,” Monica said. “That’s just not the case. We issue the mortgage and it’s at zero-percent interest, but you still have to make monthly mortgage payments.”
Jhon Baker of Elgin helped his friend’s family move into their home. Baker also suffers from chronic pain because of an injury from a motorcycle accident five years ago.
“Jhon has just been there for me every step of the way. ... even holding me up [during the dedication ceremony] because I was about to fall over,” Shear said. “He really is my best friend.”
Baker also will be designing a bookshelf for Shear’s very own room where he can focus on his poetry.
“To see him go from being evicted, a Marine, somebody who was willing to give his life for you, to me is disgusting,” Baker said. “ ... It’s the best thing in the world to see him hold the keys. It felt better than when I got the keys to my own home.”