Gail Martin, Independent Editor
MennoHomes is getting ready for another Elmira build.
This time, however, it will be a little different.
For the first time ever, the local agency will be using an already built home to create two new duplexes — one in Elmira, and one in Wellesley.
The existing fourplex, which is currently in Waterloo, will be carefully deconstructed and moved, salvaging three floors of the building.
Martin Buhr, president of MennoHomes, said that the donors decided this option was far better than simply tearing down the building.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Buhr. “For them, it was exactly the question — do they create more rubble, or donate to a charitable organization that’s working to create useful social housing?”
In exchange for the anonymous donation, the donors will receive a charitable receipt, equal to the assessed value of the home.
This is the second Elmira build for MennoHomes this year. Earlier this year, work was finished on a duplex on Centre Street, with families moving in to the homes in April.
The build was a more traditional fair, utilizing the support of local tradespeople, as well as students at Elmira District Secondary School, who worked on the build as part of their school program.
Buhr said the entire school took ownership of the project, by raising $1,000 to purchase the doors for the two homes, “as a symbolic way of welcoming the two families, by the purchase of the front doors.”
“The Centre Street project was just excellently supported,” said Buhr.
MennoHomes works to provide affordable housing to low-income families. In Woolwich and Wellesley townships, the greatest need has been providing homes for large rural families, often those of low-German speaking background.
With relatively low sources of income and a high cost of living to meet the needs of their family, these families often must take whatever homes they can get. These homes may be poorly insulated, and use outdated means of heating, making monthly expenses quite costly.
Buhr said the families that have moved into the Centre Street homes have already noticed their reduced cost of living, both in rent and heating costs.
While similar in nature to Habitat for Humanity, MennoHomes generally provides rental homes for its clients, rather than giving them the opportunity to purchase the homes outright. This opens up more opportunities for government funding, said Buhr, and also solves the problem of how low-income families can find the extra money to pay for routine maintenance on these homes.
Buhr said that there are already potential families for the home on Ratz Street, and that every time stories about MennoHomes appears in local papers, the agency gets phone calls from additional families looking for support.
“The need is there,” said Buhr.
The Ratz Street building will likely not require nearly as much labour as the Centre Street build, since the building will be relocated, rather than completely rebuilt. In Wellesley, a weekend building blitz might take place, to build the second storey on the duplex.
However, there will still be a number of costs associated with the project — preparing the lot, completing the survey work, site plan preparation, and bringing services to the lot line, as well as driveways and excavating.
A $250,000 fundraising campaign for the project has been launched, to help cover this and other costs for the Elmira and Wellesley projects.
Donors can also sponsor the purchase of appliances. Each home will be supplied with a washer, dryer, fridge and stove, for a total cost of $2,500.
A bike-a-thon is set for Saturday, June 23 on the Kissing Bridge Trailway, in support of the projects. The event, sponsored by Elmira Mennonite Church, encourages participants to walk, bike or run along various portions of the trail, collecting pledges in support of MennoHomes. A free lunch, supported with donations from No Frills, Elmira Foodland and Kitchen Kuttings, will be provided from noon until 1:30 p.m.
A motorcycle ride, coordinated by Bonnie and Clare Brubacher, will also take place that day, in support of MennoHomes. To find out more, contact Bonnie at 519-669-3192.
Buhr hopes to raise $60,000 from the one-day event.
For more information, or to confirm your participation in the Bike-A-Thon, call Buhr at 519-578-5546, or email email@example.com.