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A home for the holidays

Posted: December 16, 2013 - 10:51pm

Three-year-old Daxten Mullin ran from room to room Thursday at the empty home of his grandmother, Elaine Cunningham. The house is the most recently completed Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity home built in Kenai.

“This is my Christmas present,” she said as she looked out the window of the kitchen.

The three-bedroom home, needing only last minute finishing touches and a final inspection, will soon be hers and the hope is that she will receive the keys before the holidays.

Sharon Radtke, executive director of Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity, said the building process began in June on one of five lots owned by the group on Second Street in Kenai.

Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for home ownership for low-income families.

The group starts the building process in mid-summer with the hopes of completing it six months later.

Yet the initial process began January when the applications were submitted.

Cunningham said her daughters, Airricka Mullin and Kandance Hightower, encouraged her to apply.

“That was the first time I heard about it,” she said. “I think it is wonderful to have a project like this.”

Applicants need to meet three criteria to be eligible:

■ Recipients must be in need of safe living arrangements;

■ They must have a sustainable income and be able to make monthly payments on the no-interest mortgage;

■ They must be able to contribute 500 sweat equity hours of work on the home.

The recipient, or friends and family members, must be able to help in some way with the home, said Radtke. They could pick up after contractors, paint or even answer phones at the Habitat for Humanity office.

“They have a lot invested in this house by the time it is finished,” Radtke said.

As with other home mortgages, participants go through background and credit checks. They also have an interview.

Cunningham has lived on the peninsula for 13 years. Two years ago the home she and her son, Ruben Sepeda, were living in burned down due to a suspected electrical fire. Then the two lived in the basement of a home that was later foreclosed on and had to move once again.

Cunningham and her son ended up in a small trailer in Nikiski with rent she could barely afford and in an undesirable location.

“I did not feel safe,” she said. “It was just somewhere I lived.”

Cunningham heard back from the committee within three days and before she knew it the committee was interviewing her in her small trailer.

Before long she received the call and the dream of home ownership became a reality.

Radtke said area businesses have helped in the building process, either donating materials or time to the Habitat house.

“We are really lucky to have a community of professionals that are supportive,” she said.

Radtke said Cunningham spent much of her time at the home site painting and cleaning up. Her family members also helped with installing the sub floor, siding, flashing, painting and roofing.

Cunningham was able to pick out cabinets, coordinating counter tops, flooring and other interior decorative items with the help of designer Norma Forbes.

She said she is quite excited to use her brand new dishwasher, washer and dryer.

A house dedication and blessing was held on Dec. 1. The event was also an opportunity for in-kind and financial donors to view the nearly finished home.

Cunningham received a large quilt from one of the committee members that will cover her bed. She said she was very excited and humbled to have the help and support of so many people during the process.

Cunningham said she never thought she would be able to own a home, but with the no-interest mortage, she can afford it.

“It is not free,” she said. “I think it is awesome and I want to move in so bad.”

With a wreath hung upon the door and the promise of a warm, safe home, Cunningham said she feels blessed.

“I think we got the best present this year,” Cunningham said. “It is just a dream come true.”

Reach Sara Hardan at

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Seafarer 12/17/13 - 12:13 pm
Wish and Work

Congrats! The only thing I've ever wished for in my life is a home of my own. It's never going to happen for me, but my Daughter did it! I am so proud and I'll bet you are, too, Elaine!

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