A journey of faith has come to an end for an Archbold woman who will soon begin a new chapter of her life in Wauseon.
Kim Helmke received the keys to her new home Jan. 29 from Robert Nafziger of the Fulton County chapter of Habitat for Humanity in a dedication of the organization’s 10th home built in Wauseon. The ceremony also concluded a journey of faith for the organization as well.
More than 50 people showed up on the cold, blustery Sunday afternoon to help Helmke and her adult children, Meagan, 23, and Tyson, 20, gain possession of their new home. While snow moved in from the west, the assembly warmed up the inside of the three-bedroom home at 230 S. Shoop Ave.
For Kim Helmke, the realization of being a homeowner was a bit overwhelming. She understood the house was in God’s hands and hoped it would continue to remain there.
“It’s amazing to see everybody here to come out and support this,” Helmke said choking back tears. “All the volunteers that have been here for the meals and working on the house and prayers.
“I just want to say thank you to those who helped.”
The family was excited for the home which went above and beyond what Meagan could dream about it. The turnout was overwhelming.
“I was really excited for my mom and for us too,” Meagan said. “It is a completely new place to live.”
Tyson, who is majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Cincinnati was impressed with the love people showed for his mom.
“Either somebody they don’t know or barely know at all and building a whole house for her,” Tyson said.
Kim called the house an “amazing blessing,” in seeing the outpouring of support Sunday and through the project. It was a special moment to see the community come together, she said.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Kim said. The moment she received the keys was one of overflowing joy, excitement about finally having her own home.”
The ceremony was emceed by Pastor Erich Christman of St. John’s Church in Archbold, who also served as project supervisor. The ceremony resembled a brief church service.
“We’ve come to celebrate the goodness of the Lord as we dedicate this new home,” Christman said, reading from the program. “The blessing of this home and the joy of this family are witness to the wondrous hope the Lord provides. Great is the Lord, and most worthy of Praise!”
Christman presented a Bible to Kim Helmke and said as the Word of God, the book means the home, project and time was more than just hammer and nails.
When the project started, Helmke said she wanted to be on the site when the first wall went up and as it happened, the first day of construction was a bank holiday so she could be there.
“I was able to put the first nail in the very first wall,” Helmke said pointing to the home’s south wall. “That just an amazing feeling.”
Construction moved along well with more than 150 volunteers who put in 2000-plus hours, and that did not include donated time behind the scenes. The value of the volunteers’ time was $47,000.
The project benefitted from over $30,000 in donated materials and labor from local and national contractors and suppliers.
The Helmke family had to put in at least 250 hours of sweat equity, but ended up with more than 400, Executive Director Heidi Kern said.
The only snag was a rash of funerals Christman had to conduct.
The Wauseon inspector cleared the building with only a couple of minor mistakes, Christman said.
“He was very impressed with volunteer labor,” Christman said. “The work that was done, was done very well.”
The project gave Christman inspiration for “great sermon material for the last four months.”
The road to home ownership began when Kern stopped at the bank when Helmke worked and in passing the teller mentioned Kern’s job at Habitat. Helmke told Kern about her wanting a home, but said she wouldn’t deserve it.
Kern encouraged Helmke to fill out an application and see what happened.
“And this is where we are today,” Kern said.
For Kern, the dedication ceremony capped months of planting and working and assembling volunteers, supplies, food and funding. She was beaming.
“This is the favorite part of my job,” Kern said. “When we say welcome home to a new family.”
The project was unique, just as every family is unique. Every project tugs at her heartstrings, but this one was special, she said.
“It was entirely a step out in faith,” Kern said.
Normally she’s the one to provide the dry stats behind the emotion and keeps her board informed of where the organization is on finances, Kern said. Transparency plays an important role in that responsibility, she said.
When this project came up, finances were scarce and the prospects for help were dim.
The process is being repeated at the chapter looks toward its next project.
“We don’t even have a family chosen yet,” Kern said. “You always have to be thinking about who we are going to serve next and when and how. And that’s where I come in.”
So, with all that in mind, the fact the house came to be at all is a miracle.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen. Kim’s project was supposed to happen in 2017,” Kern said.
Helmke was part of a special program called IDA (Individual Development Account) through Northwest Ohio Community Action Commission where she learned how to budget and save up for a down payment. The goal was for her to save $2,000 that would be matched 2:1 meaning $6,000 down on a house, Kern said.
IDA is a grant program and Helmke had a deadline to meet. The property had been talked about for two years.
“In order for Kim to meet that deadline, we had to build now,” Kern said. “I remember that meeting, the board sat there and talked about it.
“This property has been in the background and on my mind. The seller was so gracious and it just so happens he made another phone call and it all just fell together.”
A need for a construction manager who could start in October was met when Christman said he would do it. The funding came together as well.
But where the next house will come from is anyone’s guess.
“We don’t have anything else to building anything else right now,” Kern said. “But’s that’s OK because we were able to serve Kim when she needed it with nothing but faith.”
“This one is special for many reasons, but as far as Habitat goes, it shows us that what we are doing is God-driven.”
As for the next project, someone in Wauseon has donated a property which means the next home could start in the fall or in 2018. The biggest obstacle is having a family to serve.
The agency would like its families to be in their program for six months to learn the financial discipline and sweat equity that is needed to build a home, Kern said. The time frame also lets the family prove their commitment.
With that in mind, construction on the next house would likely begin in the spring of 2018.
“It’s all in God’s hands,” Kern said.
James Pruitt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org