Habitat for Humanity opens latest door in McHenry

McHENRY – Dana Ferguson stood in a room bare of furniture but full of smiling people, her voice wavering Saturday as she grasped the keys to her brand-new house.

“I just want to thank everyone for this,” she said, “the friends and the family who’ve been there … everyone who put up with my questions … thank you. It’s really nice.”

Ferguson, 37, and her 11-year-old son, Aidan, became the 23rd family to gain a new home through Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County. With the help of donors, volunteer labor and grant money, the nonprofit organization builds homes for low-income families, allowing them to pay on affordable zero-interest, 100 percent equity mortgages.

The McHenry County chapter of Habitat has been in existence since 1995.

The Fergusons’ new house is at the northeast corner of Lincoln Road and Hillside Lane in McHenry, kitty-cornered from another Habitat home that was dedicated in December and across the street from a Habitat-owned lot where another home is planned.

Ferguson works full time as a customer service manager for a Lake Zurich-based manufacturing firm. Stopping occasionally to regain her composure, the single mom said she was beyond grateful for her chance at homeownership.

“I was surprised how many people came and helped build,” said Ferguson, who herself spent 160 to 200 hours putting in flooring, installing insulation, hanging drywall, framing, putting up siding and painting walls. “I have enjoyed every day coming out here and working with the volunteers. I had blisters on my fingers, I hammered so much.”

Jerry Monica, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of McHenry County, said under normal circumstances, it would have cost about $170,000 to build the 1,097-square-foot, three-bedroom home with one bathroom and attached garage.

Thanks to the volunteer labor, corporate sponsorships, private donations and funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Habitat will keep Ferguson’s mortgage to less than $400 a month.

Habitat holds the mortgage on this and other homes it builds, and puts payments toward future projects. Monica, of Lake in the Hills, said among the chapter’s goals is to have 30 active mortgages to limit reliance on dwindling government funding.

“My big press has been to become more self-sufficient,” said Monica, who has been at the organization’s helm for about two years. “We generally serve people making $18,000 to $40,000 a year, depending on family size.”

Habitat volunteers, board members and friends and family of the Fergusons attended the house dedication at 1600 Hillside Lane.

“I’m so happy for her,” said Ferguson’s mom, Thais Reynolds of Gurnee. “If anybody deserves this, she does. She’s such a good person. Her heart is as big as this whole room.”

On the Web

To get involved or learn more, visit www.habitatmchenry.org.

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