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Habitat to help another McKeesport family

| Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 4:06 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Jeremy Martin and Nicole Zeak of Habitat for Humanity prepare the living room of a donated house at 503 Atlantic Ave. for a Tuesday afternoon open house for potential buyers.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh invites McKeesport area families to tour its newest available home in the city's Lower Tenth Ward.

An open house is scheduled for Tuesday from 4-7 p.m. at 503 Atlantic Ave.

Habitat is looking to help its 74th family by matching them with an affordable home. The house was donated this year, and the Habitat staff has taken on preliminary cleanup jobs to prepare the house for a family to come in and get to work with Habitat volunteers.

“We have steady donations of homes from either banks or homeowners,” community outreach and faith relations coordinator Jeremy Martin said. “On a weekly basis we get offers, and about 10 percent of those homes are accepted for Habitat programs.”

In its commitment to eliminating substandard housing in Allegheny County, Habitat helps low-income families work toward ownership through zero-interest mortgages on rehabilitated houses.

Habitat families must income qualify at 30-50 percent of the median income and invest a minimum of 350 sweat equity hours working on their home, other Habitat houses or the Habitat ReStore. For children younger than 16, good grades count toward that equity.

“It's a great way for people to be a part of the process to prepare their home and be proud of the work that's going into it,” said AmeriCorps volunteer Nicole Zeak, representing Habitat community outreach and faith relations.

Zeak and Martin said 503 Atlantic Ave. was a real find.

Volunteers who were cleaning floors on Monday afternoon said the three-bedroom, one-bathroom home is waiting for the right family. The structure will be rehabilitated by qualified volunteers before a family would move in.

“The bathroom and kitchen will be completely remodeled,” Zeak said. “It's nice to find a house like this where we can update the things that are needed but keep a lot of its history.”

Zeak said the previous owners were great artists who were interested in woodwork. Much of the home's unique cabinetry was handcrafted.

A monthly payment would be between $450-$550, including the mortgage, taxes and insurance.

Since 1986, Habitat has built or renovated more than 80 homes in the Greater Pittsburgh region through various programs. The organization plans to expand its partnerships to serve 170 families over the next three years.

Staff members said they are happy to be working on the organization's second McKeesport home this year.

Volunteers are putting finishing touches on a home at 1120 Jefferson St., which soon will be occupied. Shawnda Little-Dreher, her husband Timothy Joel Dreher, and their daughter Tamia Little-Dreher rent a small home in central McKeesport. Their landlord is searching for a buyer for the property, putting the family in danger of not having a place to live.

“We've been so excited,” Shawnda Little-Dreher said in April. “I'm so ready to get us out of there and to finally have something to call our own, and don't have to pick up and move again.”

For more information about Habitat programs, contact family services coordinator Daniel Webb at 412-351-0512 ext. 10, or

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or