(Photo by John Cook) Cheryl Holland, standing, of Habitat for Humanity of Lapeer-Tuscola, chats with Bonnie and Robert Bader of Tuscola County’s Ellington Township, whose home received a free roof in 2018 courtesy of Habitat’s Critical Home Repair Program. Those seeking free home repairs in 2019 are asked to attend meetings from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 17, or from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 19, at the Tuscola County Medical Care Community business annex building meeting room at 1285 Cleaver Road.

Free roofs, repairs offered again to homeowners

Tuscola County residents Bob Murday, Steven and Cindy Irvine, and Robert and Bonnie Bader can testify about new roofs their homes received – for free – in 2018 courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Lapeer-Tuscola’s Critical Home Repair Program.

“I needed help real bad – the roof was deteriorating quickly,” said Murday, 62, of Fairgrove Township, noting the new roof allowed him to stay in a place he has called home “pretty much all my life.”

The program, which provided free repairs at 12 Tuscola County homes in 2018, provides up to $7,500 of repairs at each home, with eligibility tied to a homeowner’s income.

Repair projects include new roofs, windows, water heaters, furnaces and wells.

Murday’s brother-in-law, Keith Bishop of Isabella County, said he and his wife, Darlene – Murday’s sister – were discussing finding other places for Murday to live when Darlene read an article in The Advertiser about the home-repair program.

“We had looked at the possibility of whether we’d have to find other places for him to move to … when she read that article and decided ‘Well, here’s an option,’” Keith Bishop said.

The Critical Home Repair Program continues this year. Those seeking free repairs are asked to attend meetings from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 17, or from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 19, at the Tuscola County Medical Care Community business annex building meeting room at 1285 Cleaver Road.

Homeowners can pick up applications at those meetings and gain information about the program. Those with questions can call Habitat for Humanity of Lapeer-Tuscola at 810-664-7111.

The program is open to homeowners who own not only the dwelling but also the property the building sits on. Anyone whose name is on the home’s title must live in the home.

When considering whether a homeowner qualifies for free home repair, “they just look at income,” said Carolyn Nestor, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Lapeer-Tuscola.

“If you have 200 acres but you need a roof on your house, they don’t care about how much your property’s worth,” Nestor said.

A one-person household qualifies if that person receives less than the maximum gross annual income of $32,900. A two-person household can have a maximum gross annual income of $37,600, while a family of four can have a maximum gross annual income of $46,950.

Robert Bader, 76, of Tuscola County’s Ellington Township, said he had his doubts after his wife, Bonnie, mentioned the possibility of receiving funds for a new roof last year.

“She mentioned this program and I said ‘They’re not going to do nothing for us,’” Robert said. “I said ‘Why are you wasting your time?’ I ain’t had nobody do anything before.

“Now, we’re telling other people about it.”

Steven Irvine, 65, of Elmwood Township, said he was skeptical, too, about receiving a grant for roof repairs.

“I’m kind of like (Robert Bader) – I’m an old biker with a bad attitude, so I don’t think nobody’s going to help you,” Irvine said. “I was putting buckets in my attic and getting ready to refinance it, and not looking forward to another bill.”

Habitat for Humanity of Lapeer-Tuscola, the latest name of one of Habitat’s area chapters that previously focused solely on Lapeer County, has expanded into Tuscola County in the past few years.

“The need around Tuscola County is phenomenal,” said Ed Watteny, housing manager for Habitat for Humanity of Lapeer-Tuscola.

“The amount of repairs that people have had no avenue of getting done, seemingly for years, is huge. These repairs are long, long overdue.”

“I can vouch for that,” Robert Bader said, “because I grew up around here and I’m 76 years old, and I had a hell of a time finding anybody to help me do anything. I was crawling around on my roof up there trying to fix it to keep it from leaking.”

“Without Mayville State Bank, we couldn’t have done this,” Holland said. “They were willing to step up and act as the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis representative in this county. … We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Because Mayville State Bank is a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, the Mayville bank can gain access to grant funds to help Tuscola County residents, said Ben Heminger, a lender at Mayville State Bank.

The Mayville bank provided about $84,000 in grants for home-repair projects at 12 homes in Tuscola County, according to Heminger and Shelly Brooks, president and chief executive officer of Mayville State Bank.

“This is purely for community service to help out people in our community,” Brooks said. “It went to some really great homes and families that really needed the help, so we were happy to do it.”

Brooks praised Habitat workers including Watteny, Nestor and Cheryl Holland, a program manager, noting “they’re phenomenal at what they do and that’s why we were able to do this for so many people.”

Darlene Bishop said Habitat’s Watteny deserves a lot of credit and “did all the behind-the-scenes work” to help her brother, Bob Murday, receive a grant to provide a new roof.

“There was so much paperwork but Ed helped us with all of that,” added Keith Bishop.

Darlene smiled when asked her feelings about her brother remaining in his longtime residence.

“I’m very happy for him,” she said. “It’s his home.”

Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser and can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com.

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