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Family receives Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity's 10th home

MORRIS – Marina Mercado knows exactly how her bedroom will be organized come move-in day: A dresser by the door, a bunk bed in the corner and a horse collection by the closet.

“She’s already got everything laid out,” said Rey Mercado, Marina’s father.

Marina, her sister Willow and their father are recipients of Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity’s 10th home, set to be finished in the upcoming month.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit that builds affordable homes for families that earn 30 to 60 percent of the area’s median income and are unable to qualify for a conventional home loan. The homes come with a no-interest mortgage, with mortgage payments going to fund other Habitat projects.

“I’ve seen so many good people come out and donate their time for us and our home,” Mercado said. “It’s been fantastic.”

Habitat families are required to contribute 400 hours of “sweat equity” toward their new homes.

Among the Habitat for Humanity volunteers who helped build the Mercado home over the past six months were the Mercado’s soon-to-be neighbors, Jose and Marguerita Gonzalez – who are set to receive the organization’s 11th home.

“The Gonzalez’s got a head start on their equity hours by coming to help on the Mercado home,” said Julie Wilkinson, board member and resource development committee chairwoman for Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity.

“Marguerita Gonzalez has actually come out and served lunch for the volunteers working at the Mercado home,” Wilkinson said.

Rey Mercado said he has met Marguerita, Jose and their two daughters, Stephanie and Isabel.

“We get along great. We hit it off right off the bat,” Mercado said. “We’ll definitely be there to help with their house.”

The Mercado home is in the final stages of construction, said John Latimer, local Habitat for Humanity board member and construction committee co-chair.

The house is ready for drywall and flooring but construction is at a standstill until power is connected.

“We are aiming to have power in there in the coming weekend,” Latimer said.

While the house itself is nearly finished, the front sidewalk has yet to be poured by the contractor. Latimer said the unfinished sidewalk could prove problematic.

“Normally to get an occupancy permit, the sidewalk would have to be in,” Latimer said.

Latimer said he is hopeful the city will issue a temporary occupancy permit so the Mercados can move in as scheduled, and then crews could pour the sidewalk in the spring when the weather is warm enough for the job.

“We hope to be in by Christmas, but Mother Nature rules,” Mercado said.

The Mercado home is the second of five houses planned for Habitat’s new Hancock Page subdivision in Morris. Latimer said the organization is in the process of purchasing the land for the Gonzalez’s house, which will be the third in Hancock Page.

“The city has been kind enough to let us buy the lots as we acquire the money instead of making us buy all five outright,” Wilkinson said.

When construction began on the Mercado home, Habitat only had about three-fourths of the $85,000 needed to build the house, Latimer said.

A family in Gardner who has lived in a Habitat house for several years is selling their home, Wilkinson said. Proceeds from the sale will provide enough money to pay for the rest of the Mercado home and purchase the lot for the Gonzalez home.

“We still need funds to build the Gonzalez home,” Wilkinson said. “For those thinking about end-of-year giving, this is a great cause.”

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