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Welcoming the new neighbors

Habitat breaks ground for second home in its Morris subdivision

Their house may not be built yet, but Marina and Willow Mercado already know what their rooms are going to look like.

“I want to paint it four different colors, but (Dad) will only let me paint two,” said 10-year-old Willow Mercado.

If she had her way, she would even paint the ceiling a different color, said her dad, Rey Mercado, a long-time resident of Morris.

The Mercados are the recipients of Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity’s 10th house.
The organization received 25 applications for this, its third house in Morris.

The groundbreaking for the house took place Thursday evening, with the family and Morris, Grundy County, state and Habitat for Humanity officials taking ceremonial digs in the ground where the house will be built on the 900 block of east North Street.

The Mercado home will be the second in Habitat’s first subdivision, Hancock Page, named after its founding members Randy Hancock and Janet Page.

“I just can’t tell you how much this means to us,” said Rey Mercado to the crowd. “Don’t be shy, come on over. Let’s get a little dirty and have some fun.”

Julie Wilkinson, resource development committee chairwoman for Habitat for Humanity, introduced specials guests and recognized some of the contractors who are donating their services to help construct the home, as well as some donors in the audience.

Habitat for Humanity works with low-income families to build homes and provide no-interest mortgages. As part of the deal, the families perform labor on their own homes and help with the construction of other homes.

Families who receive a home from Habitat for Humanity are required to contribute 400 hours of “sweat equity” toward the construction of their house and at fundraising events.

The Grundy County Board and its then-chairman Frank Halpin were the first to take the steps toward getting Habitat for Humanity the lots for their subdivision. The county sold five acres of the old paperboard property to the city of Morris.

The council and Mayor Richard Kopczick then went into an agreement with Habitat for Humanity to sell the property to the organization as it has funding available.

“It’s a great program and it helps a lot of good people to get something they probably never could have without the help of others,” said Halpin.

The groundbreaking allowed for the soon-to-be neighbors in the subdivision to spend some time together. The Cox family, who received the first home in the subdivision, was there to celebrate with the Mercados.

“This is the most fabulous thing you could ever do and we are so happy to finally have neighbors and future babysitters,” said Jennifer Cox.

The new house is going to be 1,100 square-feet and have a one-car garage. It is expected to cost about $85,000, and will be constructed with donations from area businesses, individuals, churches and civic groups, as well as with donated and discounted materials from local contractors.

Habitat for Humanity hosted a picnic after the ceremony to share more information with the guests on the organization, including its new “Fund a Foot” program, where businesses, individuals, churches or organizations can donate for a square foot of the Mercado house in exchange for recognition on the home’s blue print that will be at all of the organization’s events.

For $100, four-square-feet can be purchased, or $25 for one foot.

“We hope to get $25,000 toward the home,” said Wilkinson.

Even though having his own house is becoming closer to reality, Rey Mercado said it is still hard to believe.

“It was like, ‘Me? You’ve got to be kidding me.’ It was a pleasant surprise to say the least,” he said.

To donate to Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity, mail donations to 105 E. Main St., Suite 202, Morris, Il 60450.

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