Jeff Heuchert, Stratford Gazette
The MacDonald family opened their doors to friends for the first time Wednesday.
An open house and key ceremony was held on the newly-seeded lawn of the Stratford family’s Home Street residence to mark the culmination of the latest Habitat for Humanity Stratford-Perth build.
The MacDonalds – Duncan and Molly and their three kids, Dustan, 15, Maggie, 14, and Nate, 10 – expected to be settled into their new four-bedroom raised bungalow by the weekend.
“We’re truly grateful for this opportunity,” said a visibly emotional Duncan prior to the ceremony. “It’s hard to take it all in. Right now we’re just enjoying every moment of it. I’ve actually been up since 3 a.m.”
“We’re a little excited,” added Molly, with a laugh.
She said the first thing they plan to do in their new home – a significant upgrade over the cramped townhouse they were renting – is have a barbecue and watch a movie together as a family.
“We try to make sure that the kids enjoy and cherish this,” said Duncan.
“We’re really lucky. We have teenagers who still want to be with us, so we’re going to take advantage of that,” Molly added, jokingly.
The MacDonalds are also looking forward to entertaining friends and family inside their new spacious home.
“It’s in our hearts to entertain, and be social and have people over,” noted Duncan.
That entertaining will likely extend into their large backyard, where workers still need to finish the lawn and build a deck.
“As excited as I am for the house, I cannot wait for the backyard,” said Molly. “We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful lot.”
Likewise, Molly said her youngest son, who plays soccer and baseball, couldn’t wait for the backyard to be ready.
Asked what they liked best about the house, Molly noted the large closets, the storage space and the kitchen. Duncan said he was happy to have space in the basement for his drum set, but, conversely, was also looking forward to the peace and quiet one can get living in a single family dwelling in a residential neighbourhood.
It’s a neighbourhood Duncan knows well, too. His mother, he noted, grew up a street over on Strachan Street and his grandparents lived on nearby Mowat Street. And his new next-door neighbour, he just recently learned, attended the same school as him.
“We’re just so delighted to be here,” he said.
This year’s build – the 13th for the local Habitat branch since it formed in 1993, and its first in two years – was sparked by a $100,000 grant from The Brick, Habitat for Humanity Canada’s new national sponsor.
The Brick also contributed five team build days to go along with the hundreds of volunteer hours put in by local residents and businesses that helped finish the home just three months after shovels hit the ground.
“We’ve had so much support from near and far between the local citizens, people pitching in and doing volunteer work, to corporate sponsors that are Canada wide,” said Duncan, who noted he had also received “tremendous encouragement” from the staff at SteelCraft, where he works as a welding apprentice.
The Downie Street business, he noted with a smile, is now just a short walk away from his home.
The MacDonalds were selected to be Habitat’s next partner family in 2011 and the build began in early May of this year. It was completed on time and on budget at the end of July, with landscaping taking place throughout August.
In exchange for the down payment-free and interest-free home, the MacDonald family was asked to complete 500 “sweat equity” hours, a total that was easily surpassed. Molly volunteered at the Habitat ReStore while Duncan and the kids assisted with various fundraising drives and events.
“We actually had 500 (sweat equity hours) before the shovels hit,” noted Duncan. “At that was just our family, the five of us.”
Added Molly, “We worked really hard to do it, but it was worth it.”
Wednesday’s ceremony was attended by many of the volunteers who worked on the project, representatives from The Brick, Scotiabank and MCAP, which both contributed $5,000 towards the build, as well Habitat’s national office.
Stewart Hardacre, president of Habitat for Humanity Canada, suggested the MacDonalds are the perfect Habitat family in many respects.
“As much as there is a lot of effort on many hands to create a new Habitat home, it’s the families that really allow this to occur,” he said.
“It’s because those families are desiring a better future for themselves and a better future for their children they decide to partner with Habitat.”
He said the new home was not a happy ending for the MacDonalds, but a happy beginning.
Coun. Kerry McManus, who brought greetings on behalf of the city, said it was a happy day in Stratford to be celebrating the completion of the newest Habitat home. It shows that great things can happen when people come together, she added.