Welcome Home!

By: Manasee Wagh
Bucks County Courier Times

On Thursday, the McWhite family will move into their new home, built by Habitat for Humanity.

The McWhite family just got an early Christmas present: the keys to a new home in Bristol Township.

The green, four-bedroom house with white trim has a generous front porch, a backyard surrounded by trees and a full basement.

Seven months ago, it was a small, crumbling structure with a broken roof and boarded windows, but the hands-on work of Habitat for Humanity volunteers and donations turned the dilapidated building into a distant memory.

Strung across the porch railing on Saturday was a “welcome home” banner signed by volunteer builders and supporters. About 50 friends, family members and volunteers gathered in front of the pretty home to congratulate the family with prayer and well wishes.

Latarsha McWhite, her kids Ronnie Wilson, 10, and Ronald Wilson, 7, and her mom Irene McWhite, couldn’t stop smiling.

Ronnie said was very excited to find out that they were getting a new home.

“I’m really happy because I helped build it too. I painted, did clean up,” she said, sitting next to her mother as the group enjoyed cake and coffee.

Latarsha had just moved her family into a two-bedroom apartment about two years ago and was looking for items to furnish and decorate it. She stumbled upon Habitat for Humanity ReStore online and bought a few things. At the time, it never occurred to her that a Habitat house was a possibility.

As she read more about the organization, she discovered that she could qualify. Months later, the family was offered the new home in Bristol Township.

“We saw the floor plan on Feb. 22. We saw that day as a blessing from God,” said Latarsha, who now lives in Trenton, N.J.

She and her mother thanked the assembled crowd of volunteers profusely.

“I love each and every one of you in a very special way – words can’t say,” Latarsha said. “When you see this great accomplishment everyone has taken the time to do, you just feel so grateful, when people put their hands, their hearts and their souls into it.”

Her mother, Irene, added a piece of advice based on her own experience.

“When I let go and rely on God to guide my path, my family’s path, I find peace,” she said. “And look what God has brought me. There’s other families out there who probably need help. I would tell them, if you need help and you don’t want to go to Habitat for Humanity, you’re headed in the wrong direction.”

Dozens of volunteers worked on the home, and dozens more collaborated on the innumerable details, from coordinating the volunteers to overseeing construction, and finally adding homey, useful gifts, including a picnic table and hand-knitted afghans.

The Craftsman-inspired Cape Cod-style house is the first Bucks County Habitat for Humanity home with an Energy Star rating, said architect Joseph F. Augustine, JFA Architecture.

Among other features, it’s well insulated and has double-hung windows, and it should save the family about $900 per year in energy bills, said Mike Fallon, Habitat for Humanity project manager.

Since the previous house was in such bad shape, it had to be razed, and the foundation had to be repaired.

Most challenging was coming up with a feasible design to fit all the desired features into the existing 24′ x 32′ footprint.

JFA Architecture was able to transform a small structure into a two-story house with 1,652 square feet of living space, said Augustine.

From May until the end of October, volunteers spent hundreds of hours working on the house from the ground up, including hammering, putting in drywall and painting, said Sandy Mullican, a volunteer who brought Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Habitat for Humanity together and organized the volunteers. Thrivent Financial is a partner with Habitat for Humanity to build homes internationally.

Colin Davis, 18, said he didn’t know what to expect when he signed on to help.

“I had a lot of fun building this home and cleaning up the messes we made,” said Davis, a volunteer from Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Lower Makefield.

Members of local Lutheran churches signed 2×4 support beams that form the home’s frame, said Mullican. Several of the churches raised $14,500, she said.

In all, 18 Lutheran churches all helped in some way, by fundraising, donating and working on the house, she said.

Arteshia Darby of Morrisville scrutinized the house inside and out.

“It’s incredible to see the finished product. I put in so many hard hours. This is amazing,” she said, admiring the pristine white walls and sunny basement with windows.

Darby’s going to be the recipient of a Habitat for Humanity home in the township herself in a few months, and Latarsha McWhite is helping build it, Darby said. They’ve become friends.

“I’ll be just around the corner,” she said. “Now I’ll know where to go for backyard barbecues!”

The McWhites move in on Thursday.