Tonya Lunsford and her family have had an emotional last few years. There have been some trying times and times that were joyous, such as when she was able to purchase the family homestead. One year ago, she bought the home that her grandparents had built in 1953 and that her family has lived in for generations. The house has been owned by Lunsford’s grandparents, her aunt and uncle, and now her. She grew up in the house next door to her grandparents and jumped at the opportunity to purchase the family home that held so many fond memories.
Lunsford lives with her niece and three daughters. Even though her oldest just graduated Saginaw Valley State University and is no longer living at home, she visits home often. The place they live in is more than a house, it is a home filled with memories, love and joy. However, the home is also starting to show its age. It needed a new roof and a few other repairs.
Lunsford was overwhelmed and stressed about how to afford the repairs the house needed. She couldn’t afford to replace a roof without saving for a few years, which would only make the roof worse. She tried contacting her homeowner’s insurance about her needed roof repair, but they were not able to assist with it. She was stuck in a circle of needing a home repair, but not able to gain assistance with the repair.
On top of that, she is not experienced in home construction and was worried about hiring a contractor. She wasn’t sure which contractor to try and get a hold of, what to look for when hiring a contractor. She was worried her inexperience in construction and hiring the right contractor for the job. Tonya was stressed and overwhelmed, her main concern was having a safe home for her family. She was not sure what to do. Tonya’s mom contacted Midland County Habitat for Humanity (MCHFH) to get some information, she had heard they do home repairs.
After contacting MCHFH the Lunsfords’ learned they have a Home Repair and Preservation program. This program works with homeowners with low to moderate incomes restore and maintain their homes. After learning this, Lunsford quickly applied for the program using the online home repair request form at MCHFH’s website at midlandhabitat.org. Lunsford completed the information and waited to hear back. Her prayers were answered when the Homeowner Services Manager Katty Owens contacted her about her application.
“When learning about the program, and that MCHFH would be the general contractor, I was so relieved. Relieved that I qualified for the program and relieved that MCHFH would be able to find qualified contractors to do the repairs.” said Lunsford. “I was overwhelmed with the needed repairs looming over us. The thought of researching contractors, and having to look at my roof every day as a reminder of this necessary repair was draining.”
MCHFH funds repair projects through grants and private donations. The Home Repair and Preservation program does not assist with cosmetic repairs, but critical home repairs that impact the safety and quality of life of the individuals living in the home. Applications are evaluated with a “priority/needs based” assessment of the property for all eligible candidates. The goal of the program is to help homeowners repair and maintain their homes.
MCHFH serves as the general contractor and may complete repair projects in house using staff and volunteers, or hire subcontractors depending on the nature of the work. The program uses grants with no payback options and payback options with deferred 0% interest loans. Qualifications for the program varies depending on funding sources, but in general, applicants should be a homeowner (land contracts and mobile homes are ineligible), be current on taxes and homeowners insurance, and have 30% to 60% area median income determined by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The guidelines can be found at midlandhabitat.org.
“Home repair can be overwhelming and cause stress on homeowners,” said Jennifer Chappel, president and CEO of Midland County Habitat for Humanity. “By focusing on critical home repairs, we can help homeowners in the community alleviate health and safety issues and also alleviate the overwhelming stress of the home repair. Habitat’s vision is that having a safe, stable home helps bring strength, security and independence to families, and ultimately, communities. We greatly appreciate community partners that make these repairs possible and help us achieve strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter.”
While the contractors were working on Lunsford’s house they found some additional repairs that needed to be made. When replacing the roof, they noticed the bathrooms were vented into the attic causing condensation and unnecessary moisture in the attic. This style of venting into the attic is an older method and is no longer up to code. Through layering grant opportunities to maximize the repair program benefits, MCHFH was able to also repair the venting issue in Lunsford’s home.
“When looking at a repair, we do not focus on a singular issue. With Tonya’s home if we replaced her roof and her bathrooms were still vented into her attic, the additional moisture would greatly reduce the life of the roof,” said Chappel. “Our goal is to improve the living conditions and address issues that will improve the quality of life of the homeowners and also ensure the repairs will not be affected by other issues in the home. The added moisture was a critical home repair that caused breathing complications due to the moisture and mold. The overall health and quality of life will be improved for Tonya and her family.”
The repairs made to Lunsford’s home were made possible by grants from DuPont and Consumer’s Energy.
In October 2020 DuPont donated $35,000 to Midland County Habitat for Humanity to support its Home Repair and Preservation program to offer critical home repairs for low to moderate income residents in Midland County. As COVID-19 continues to impact the nation and community, MCHFH is working with community partners to help homeowners in Midland County make critical home repairs and stabilize their homes. The generous folks at DuPont were not done there. When they learned about some of the struggles Tonya and her family endured the past few years they wanted to do more. They sponsored Lunsford’s family for Christmas and bought her and her girls some gifts to help make this Christmas one to remember. DuPont generously donated gifts for Lunsford’s niece, daughters and a few items for Lunsford, too.
“I prayed. What do I do? I had no idea who to turn to or how to handle the repairs. The repairs to my home will allow us to live healthy and have a healthy home,” said Lunsford. “And the additional gifts from DuPont were truly an answered prayer. I never expected anything like this and cannot thank them enough!”
“DuPont is proud to support Habitat for Humanity and the outstanding work they do,” said Tim Lacey, leader of DuPont North and global vice president and general manager of Performance Building Solutions and Corian Design. “Helping neighbors in need move into a new home, or repair their current home, strengthens our community. It brings stability. It provides a foundation for them to continue to build better lives for themselves.”
“I was really touched when I first heard Tonya’s story at a Habitat project meeting,” said Kayley Lyons, DuPont community relations leader. “For years, I was raised by a single mother and I understand how challenging it can be. Tonya is a single mom, working hard to give her family the best life possible. She finds herself in a difficult situation and she just needs a hand, not a hand-out, to keep moving forward. This is exactly the kind of impact we want to make at DuPont.”
DuPont’s support is part of the company’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity International, which began in 2019, and helps families and communities to thrive through safe, energy efficient and affordable housing. The collaboration not only includes product donations across North America, but also the time and effort from DuPont employees.
DuPont has collaborated with Midland County Habitat for Humanity previously. In 2019, DuPont provided a financial donation and its employees volunteered at build days for a single-family home build on Rowe Court in Midland. DuPont employees also volunteered at the 2019 MCHFH Neighborhood Revitalization event in which 15-20 homes are revitalized with repairs in an identified neighborhood in the City of Midland. MCHFH works with the City of Midland to identify neighborhoods that fall within the income guidelines of 30% to 60% of the median income and works to repair owner-occupied homes.
The contractor hired to complete the repairs was Michigan Lakeside Builders. They specialize in residential, commercial construction and renovation. Owner Wes Tahash and his business partner Jonathon Howard, both veterans of the armed services, oversaw the repairs of Lunsford’s home.
When asked how her overall experience was, Tonya said, “The staff at MCHFH was amazing and great to work with. Michigan Lakeside Builders was so professional and hard working. The contractors took the time to explain everything and make sure I understood. I am grateful for this opportunity and grateful to DuPont for all they have done! I can’t put it into words, the amount of stress lifted from having the home repairs completed. I am grateful to everyone involved.”
When asked what home means to her, Lunsford said, “Home means family, comfort and security. And now with these repairs and generosity, it means everything.”
Those who need assistance with home repairs can visit midlandhabitat.org or call Katty Owens, homeowner services manager, at 989-496-0900.
– Processed by Victoria Ritter, [email protected]