Gilbert church hopes donations help fund Habitat home - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Gilbert church hopes donations help fund Habitat home

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Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2008 7:35 pm | Updated: 10:46 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A Gilbert church is hoping the blessings of Christmas Eve will result in blessings for a community mission project.

Sun Valley Community Church plans to ask members and visitors to make a donation on Christmas Eve to help fund the Habitat for Humanity house that members will start building in January in Chandler.

Matt Swartz, outreach minister at the growing church, said the goal is to reach $20,000.

The church did a similar one-time offering at Easter that resulted in more than $70,000 for the church's mission in South Africa.

Sun Valley is part of a coalition with Bethany Community Church in Tempe and St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Chandler to build the house, along with Desert Schools Credit Union and the Esco Foundation.

"We're really excited about Sun Valley's hope to do that," said Missie D'Aunoy, chief operating officer of Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona. "Not many faith communities can raise that much money in one day and that would be a great accomplishment."

It's very possible. In the spring, Bethany designated Easter offerings toward the project, bringing in $43,000 in contributions, said Peggy Levesque, community outreach ministries director at the church.

St. Andrew started fundraising during last summer and is continuing the effort during the Advent season, with plans to donate $21,000 toward the project, said Cathy Bergman, caring minister coordinator. Students at Chandler's Seton Catholic High School also are helping, she said.

Not only will the churches help fund the house, members will be part of the crews raising the walls, hammering in the nails and painting the walls.

The Central Arizona chapter of Habitat for Humanity is in the midst of trying to build nearly 50 homes in the Valley in one year. Families that apply and qualify for a Habitat house receive an interest-free loan. They also must contribute 400 hours of sweat equity to Habitat.

Sun Valley church members have helped with Habitat houses in the past when volunteers were needed, but this is the first time the church is contributing financially, Swartz said.

"We're excited," he said. "It's great to help build, but we want to be part of making that dream a reality."

Sponsors must donate together $85,000 toward a home, said Liz Pabst-Wanless, corporate relations manager for Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona.

"It's a cool package," she said. "You're not only donating your money, your skills, your labor, but you're also getting to know the family you're helping. And families are getting to know the people who care."

The organization has an abundance of volunteers who want to help, but finding affordable land to build from the ground up is always a struggle, D'Aunoy said.

An anonymous donor has stepped forward to help. The donor has purchased two foreclosed homes at auction and donated them to Habitat for renovation, with plans to purchase up to 10 homes around the Valley, Pabst-Wanless said. The current renovation projects are in west Phoenix.

In the East Valley, Gilbert will get its first Habitat house when construction begins in January on a home for the Cardona family at 102 W. Park Ave. The home is being sponsored by the Neely Foundation, Citibank and St. Anne's Catholic Community in Gilbert.

Habitat also is in early discussions with communities around the Valley that will receive Community Development Block Grant funds to acquire foreclosed properties as part of the Housing Economic and Recovery Act. The $3.9 billion federal plan will release money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase and renovate foreclosed homes in existing communities.

"We've been talking to all of the cities about Habitat being the partner," D'Aunoy said. "This would benefit the community where we live and work and keep our volunteers engaged with affordable housing. Anything we can do to promote affordable housing, we want to help."

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