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St. Francois County just gained another homeowner, as Habitat for Humanity deeded over its 27th house to its newest family on Thursday.

Habitat for Humanity of St. Francois County has been an affiliate since 1998 of the national, non-profit home-building organization. Habitat for Humanity International, headquartered in Americus, Ga., was founded in 1976.

The houses are built through donations, voluntarism and in-kind support, and families who qualify for the program make low, monthly, low-interest house payments, in addition to volunteering on their house build. Local banks who handle the lending and payments are First State Community Bank and New Era Bank.

The newest Habitat house, at 203 Grant St. in Desloge, is about 1,200 square feet and features a vaulted living room ceiling, two full bathrooms, two bedrooms with closet space, a covered front porch and a sizable concrete driveway off of the alley in back. It was built over the course of a year from application to closing, and two other homes were built at the same time.

Monica Courson, her 11-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son will be moving into their new home very soon. They’ve been living in Valles Mines with her parents, Tim and Teresa Courson. Teresa also attended the signing, key-handover and house dedication on Thursday.

After a quick prayer, Habitat Executive Director Linda Dickerson gave Courson symbolic gifts of bread (“that this house may never know hunger”), salt (“that your life will always have flavor”) and wine (“that joy and prosperity may forever reign in your home and in your life”). She was also given a Bible stamped with “Habitat for Humanity” “to remind you that this house was built on the foundation of God’s love.” Habitat is an ecumenical, Christian housing ministry.

Courson, 29, said she was looking forward to putting her personal stamp on her house.

“This house means everything,” she said. “I’ve never owned my own home. I’ve rented before, but it’s never gone so smoothly. I like the idea of being able to own it myself and not have to answer to anyone else as to what I do with it. I can’t wait to paint.”

Teresa’s mother said she was excited for her daughter.

“She likes to decorate, so she’ll be able to make it her own. She has quite a bit in storage,” Teresa said. “I’ve been volunteering in the ReStore, so when things came in that I thought she’d like, I would let her know so she could buy them.”

The local ReStore is Habitat’s non-profit retail location in the former Shopper’s Paradise building near Crowne Pointe Golf Course. The store, which also serves as a fundraiser for Habitat, sells almost all manner of things that build a home, maintain a home, or decorate a home. In addition to buying a set of end tables and numerous home décor items, Courson’s house sports bathroom vanities and doors that were donated to the ReStore.

“I also plan on using some of their tile for a backsplash project in my kitchen,” she said.

The Courson family’s voluntarism helped Monica meet Habitat’s international requirements that homeowners participate in the building process by providing 500 hours of “sweat equity." It’s one way to keep building costs between $90,000 and $115,000. Homeowners are also chosen on their ability to make mortgage payments, their readiness to partner with the Habitat affiliate, and their willingness to live in St. Francois County on lots owned or purchased by Habitat.

Dickerson said she was glad Courson applied to be a homeowner.

“We were so happy to work with Monica and her family, they’re delightful people,” she said. “They worked so hard on this house for Monica. Now she can call this home her own.”

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Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at shaas@dailyjournalonline.com

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