Family ready to ‘feel stable’ in new home

Xueying Wang, center, holding her daughter, Serenity, 7, thanks gathered Habitat for Humanity supporters and friends for help in starting her future home during a nail-drive ceremony Saturday in North Lawrence. Wang’s home will be the 81st by Lawrence Habitat for Humanity. At left is Erika Zimmerman, Habitat family partner, and at right is Wang’s son, Jake, 20, and her mother, Ling.

Xueying Wang waited a long time to drive the ceremonial first nail in the construction of her new home in North Lawrence.

The last of Habitat for Humanity of Lawrence’s most recent group of new homeowners to start building, she has been waiting since 2008. She was so enthusiastic Saturday about kicking off construction on her new home in the 200 block of Comfort Lane in North Lawrence, she kept whacking away at several nails in succession before letting her son, Jake, try one. Dozens of volunteers were with her Saturday morning to celebrate and get to work raising the house’s walls.

“Habitat for Humanity gave my family a chance,” Wang said. “I’m so excited; we’ll feel stable.”

Wang, along with Jake, 20, her daughter, Serenity, 6, and her mother, 70, are Habitat’s 81st partner family in Lawrence. After about 12 weeks, if construction follows the normal schedule, the Wang family will move in among neighbors who had that same experience. All of the houses on North Comfort Lane are Habitat homes.

But Wang has traveled farther than most to reach Comfort Lane. She came to Lawrence from Beijing, China, in 2003, became a citizen last year and voted for the first time this November. Wang is a full-time student working on a degree in surgical technology at Neosho County Community College, and her son studies at Johnson County Community College.

Wang said she applied to Habitat because she couldn’t afford a mortgage, but home ownership was important to her Chinese family. Without it, she said in a news release, a family is like “grass blowing in the wind.”

Like her new neighbors, Wang will have invested 225 hours of her own work, and a $1,500 down payment, before she claims the four-bedroom house. Then, she’ll make payments on a zero percent mortgage. She has already put some hours into building other Habitat homes and learned basic construction and home maintenance skills.

Habitat owns space for two more homes on Comfort Lane and some lots on New Jersey Street. But it is still $8,000 short of the $65,000 needed to finish Wang’s house. The project required a special dispensation from its board of directors to move forward before all of the construction funds are in hand.

Lindsey Slater, Habitat’s community outreach coordinator, said she was confident the group would find the money. Habitat also has selected four more families to help and will be raising money and recruiting volunteers for the coming year, as always.

Steve Hillmer, of Lawrence, and a Habitat volunteer, helped raise the walls Saturday. He said he liked helping people make their own homes and learned a lot about building in his 11 years with Habitat.

“It’s not a giveaway,” he said. “We’re helping them. If you come every Saturday, you can learn a lot — even if you’re a slow learner.”

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