Brother's efforts help woman get into new Habitat home in Hempfield
By Bob Stiles
Published: Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, 11:09 p.m.
Gayle Heckman has a place to call home, thanks to the kindness of former strangers.
About a dozen members of Central Westmoreland Habitat for Humanity refurbished a residence for Heckman in Hempfield, just in time for Christmas.
“It's the best present ever,” Heckman said. “I told my brother I don't need anything else. This is perfect. It came at a great time.”
“It makes our Christmas, too,” said Jeff Dorko, a Habitat board member. “The fact it comes at Christmas is especially comforting for us and gratifying.”
Heckman, 73, a widow, had tears in her eyes as she entered her home in Grapeville on Saturday.
“They're still there,” Heckman said minutes later.
Habitat is a faith-based group that builds and repairs homes all over the world using volunteer labor and donations.
The local group's 12-member board of directors began work on the home about nine months ago. They framed, dry-walled, painted and installed a kitchen in converting the donated modular home.
“We did it, basically, from a shell,” Dorko said.
The project is the local group's 13th and the first for the new board of directors. The previous governing body disbanded nearly a year ago.
Contractors installed a water line and built a deck, Dorko said.
Heckman went on Habitat's list after her brother, Tom Anderson of Hempfield, began talking to Joseph “Jay” Cramer after tearing down a pool at Cramer's home.
Anderson told Cramer, a Habitat board member, about his desire to move his sister out of her Butler apartment and closer to him.
“I mentioned I was on the board, and we were in the process of preparing this trailer for occupancy,” Cramer said. “He asked where it was located.”
Anderson looked at the home and found it was perfect for his sister.
Heckman said her Butler apartment was costly to heat, and the concrete floor was hard on her surgically replaced knees.
“It's not a freebie,” Dorko said. “They are responsible homeowners who pay a mortgage. It's generally people on a fixed income who have a good credit rating.”
The new owner generally pays a mortgage related to the cost for materials to refurbish or build the house, said the Rev. Cassandra Robinson, the local group's president.
“Having this happen so soon is just inspiration to me,” Robinson said. “This is an epoch in my life to see someone able to occupy a home we put our blood, sweat and tears into.”
Anderson helped to build the home. A family member must contribute what Habitat calls “sweat equity.”
“She's my sister. It's that simple,” he said of his efforts.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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