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Habitat Kent Blog

Seeking to put God's love into action, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope.

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The House that Andy Built (Grandville Ave.) is certified LEED platinum! This is the highest level of excellence for sustainable building, and Andy's house is the 5th Habitat Kent home to earn LEED platinum since 2006 from the U.S. Green Building Council.


LEED, which stands for Leaders in Energy & Environmental Design, provides independent verification that a structure was built using strategies that ensure human and evironmental health. Criteria include sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection and indoor environmental quality.


b2ap3_thumbnail_Andys-House-Logo.jpgAndy's House received high marks for location, materials, design and construction, and especially energy efficiency. The four-bedroom home earned an exceptionally high HERS (Home Energy Rating System) rating, meaning it's virtually airtight, which is a primary emphasis in Habitat Kent's green building strategies.


What's most extraordinary in this case, says Construction Director Connie O'Toole, is that Andy's House was built according to ordinary Habitat Kent plans and practices. "We built this house like we build all our houses," she said. "The volunteer crews that worked there really deserve the applause." O'Toole credits the volunteers who spent hours caulking seams to make the home airtight. A little caulk can go a long way.


The House that Andy Built was constructed in 2013 in memory of Andy Angelo, a lifelong supporter of the Roosevelt Park community. More than 425 volunteers helped build the home, which was dedicated last December.


"This was an amazing project from start to finish," said Mary Angelo, Andy's wife. "Sustainability — in design, buildings and neighborhoods — is critical to the health of any city."


We agree! We love it when our homes save both the environment and a family's bank account.

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Bienvenido and Lydia Cardona were looking for a small change. They found a new life. 

The Cardonas were living in a housing project, in an old and cramped apartment where three of their four children had to squeeze into a single bedroom. So they went out looking for a house.


That house search was more successful than they ever dreamed. When they set out, in 1990, they were just looking for a place to rent - but what they found was Habitat, and now, nearly 25 years later, they live in a house that is all their own and completely paid off.


The realtor showing them rental properties suggested they look into Habitat. They did, and they applied. And then they waited.


b2ap3_thumbnail_Cardonas.jpgAt first the Cardonas were told only five applicants could be accepted that year, and they were the sixth. So they kept waiting. Then, to their stunned delight, they were told they were accepted, but funds and volunteers still needed to be identified. So they kept waiting. They drove by the site where their house would be constructed, again and again, dreaming about what it would look like, what it would be like to live there.

Finally, in 1994 - four years after they applied - they moved into their Habitat house in southeast Grand Rapids. "It was like a new life," said Bienvenido. "Everything was new," his daughter added. "It was so big to us. There was so much space. We all were so happy."


Now the family is even happier. They're one of the first Habitat Kent families to complete their mortgage, and they recently celebrated in Habitat Kent's first-ever mortgage-burning ceremony. "We're grateful to God," said Bienvenido. "Our house is completely ours now!"


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We are thrilled to announce that Habitat for Humanity of Kent County has been named 2013 Habitat Affiliate of the Year for the state of Michigan!


This award recognizes a landmark year for us: In celebration of our 30th anniversary in 2013, we completed our final home in the Wealthy Heights neighborhood, and at the same time we launched the Building Blocks Campaign, our initiative to serve 200 families in two years on the West Side of Grand Rapids. We have worked hard to engineer a major change over the past few years, expanding our emphasis from single properties to entire neighborhoods. Both the Wealthy Heights project and the Building Blocks Campaign illustrate this evolution, and we are proud that these efforts have been successful!


We are proudest, however, of all the individuals, churches, and businesses—all the volunteers, donors, and partner families—that inspire our work and make it possible. Thank YOU for your role in a landmark year. We hope you'll celebrate with us!


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Lisa Groendal-Fitchena remembers growing up in the house on the corner. Her family moved there when she was only a year old. Her mother and father, a World War II veteran who is now 92 years old, still live there today. Lisa and her siblings have struggled for years to keep them there, in the place they’ve called home for half a century.


“It’s been a challenge,” says Lisa. “We’ve done as much as we can, with as many resources as we can find, to keep them in this house.”


Mission accomplished. Lisa learned of a new resource in the last year: Habitat’sRepair Corps program. Through a partnership between Habitat for Humanity of Kent County and The Home Depot Foundation, Repair Corps teams were able to make the Groendal home safe and comfortable for Leon and Loretta, Lisa’s aging parents.


Lisa learned about Repair Corps through her uncle, a Vietnam veteran who himself learned about the program at the VA. When she helped her father apply, they were simply hoping for repairs on the furnace (which was the original unit, installed when the house was built in the 1960s). They were stunned by Habitat’s response: in addition to replacing the furnace, the Repair Corps program, in partnership with Team Depot, The Home Depot’s associate-led volunteer force, would build an exterior ramp, replace the windows, add insulation in the basement and overhaul some of the plumbing and electrical work.




“It’s a new house now,” says Lisa. With the ramp, coming and going becomes a lot simpler for her father; and with the new windows and insulation, staying warm in the winter will cost a lot less. This means that he can focus on what he really loves: keeping up with all his veteran friends. “He really loved his planes,” says Lisa, and he loves keeping in contact with veterans of all eras that share that connection.


“We’re so grateful for all these improvements,” says Lisa. “It’s great to see that there are companies and people out there really looking out for the veterans that have served our country.”


Click here to see the full photo album. 

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National Women Build Week 2014 is here!

May 3-11 is a week dedicated to celebrating the achievement of women building homes and building hope with Habitat. Here at Habitat Kent, we have a full week scheduled:

  • May 3 - NWBW 2014 kickoff with a build day at 909 Kensington Ave. SW, the future home of Habitat partner Holly and her two children. The Habitat Young Professionals are partnering with us on this special day. We look forward to swinging a hammer with some dynamic young women in our community!
  • May 8 - NWBW work day #2 at 1214 Rathbone St. SW, the future home of Habitat partner Ericka.
  • May 9 - NWBW work day #3 and Media Day at 1214 Rathbone St. SW. We're thrilled to be joined by Wyoming City Councilwoman Joanne Voorhees, Women Build Steering Committee Chairwoman Jenny Waugh of Rockford Construction and Kentwood Lowe's manager Becky Couture. Join us for a special ceremony from 11 to 11:30 a.m. as these women talk about the impact of Women Build on our cities, families and businesses.

Be sure to check our affiliate Facebook and Twitter — and our dedicated Women Build Facebook — for photos and updates throughout the week.

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425 Pleasant Street SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503