Its roots are international. But in Washington County, Habitat for Humanity is focused on building local homes, for local families. And volunteers from Marcellus shale driller Range Resources are among those helping to make it happen. Employees regularly volunteer for Habitat for Humanity building projects – taking part in special "Range Days"; and devoting their time, skills and efforts to building homes in Washington County.
Each affiliate has its own criteria for prospective homeowners. In order to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home in Washington, PA -- applicants must first complete an application, provide all the requested verifications, and consent to a credit check. Once these steps are completed, the family will be interviewed in their current home by members of the Family Selection Committee, who will make a recommendation to the Board concerning the family's suitability for the program.
The organization is very clear that what they are providing is a hand up – not a hand out. The homes they build and provide are not free; that's a common misconception. In fact, every homeowner will be responsible for paying a monthly mortgage, plus escrow for taxes and insurance. And while the mortgage payments on a HFH home are very affordable, they will still equal several hundred dollars a month for each homeowner. HFH credit counselors work with each homeowner, making sure they'll be able to afford their new home, and helping them develop new financial organizational and money saving skills.
“Before a group of volunteers like ours can step on to a job site, the homeowner must already pass Habitat's screening to make sure this is a good fit and then they're right there with us investing what Habitat calls 'sweat equity' into their home,” said Range's Laural Ziemba who helped work a recent Habitat home. “Habitat runs a lean organization locally and they rely on volunteers to help these projects come to fruition.”
Erick Podurgiel is the Washington County Habitat for Humanity Construction Manager. He's been working in carpentry and construction for over 13 years, and before starting his job with Habitat for Humanity, was part of the crew that built the Range Resources offices at Southpointe. He's been with HFH for a little over two years. "I supervise the on-site groups, every volunteer that comes out." It's a diverse group of people. "They bring a wide range of skills! From honor society students, to church groups, to energy industry employees – it really varies. I've had former school superintendents, along with a guy that used to design nuclear submarines." Erick says he's grateful for all of their efforts – including volunteers from Range Resources.
"The Range group is phenomenal. They bring skills that translate really well to home building." But he is quick to point out that carpentry and related skills are absolutely not a requirement for volunteers. "Don't worry if you don't have skills! It's all right; I'll show you how to do the work efficiently and safely."
And for Erick, the joy and gratitude of each new homeowner when they take possession of their brand new home is the pay-off. "This is their first home, they've only ever lived in rentals – some of them paying rent to slum lords in bad situations. And now they get a quality built house. They often can't believe it. They're very grateful."
The home that Range volunteers helped to build in 2016 is still a work in progress. Erick expects the home to be finished in late April 2017, and says the family can't wait to move in. “They are so excited, one of them is at the house nearly every day that we are working on site, and honestly they are a joy to have around.”
This article is brought to you by Range Resources.