Habitat for Humanity board 2019

Habitat for Humanity of Piatt County board members pose near their office in the Piatt County Office Building. Pictured are Charlie Montgomery, Roger Harshbarger, Annette Huisinga, Jeff Colbert, Dean Howarter , Jon Seevers, Art Wilkinson , Shelly Crawford Stock and Keith Herbold. Board members not pictured – David Brown, David Hunt and James Ayers.


Habitat for Humanity of Piatt County did not construct a home in 2019, but they didn’t just take a year off.

“We held off because we wanted to do a duplex next year,” said Habitat Board President Annette Huisinga.

“There have still been meetings. There are new people on board, so we have also been refreshing and renewing,” she added.

“And, realistically, we needed two times the amount of money, and that doesn’t happen overnight,” added board member Shelly Crawford-Stock.

And there has been fundraising, with about $14,000 raised through Habitat’s popular wood sales program, something that has generated about $300,000 in income for its home building efforts over the past 13 years.

The local Habitat crew constructed its first home in 1999 and has put up 14 in all since it formed. The idea of offering people the opportunity of home ownership has always been the driving force.

Dean Howarter has been there since 2004, volunteering to fundraise, chop wood and build houses.

He doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.

“I just enjoy doing it, and helping. You see a need and it’s a way to give back to the community. Seeing the desire of people to work, you just don’t want to let that go,” he said.

The process towards a 2020 build has already begun. New fundraising chairman Charlie Montgomery is getting the ball rolling this month, and meetings are scheduled for Jan. 6 and 9 for those interested in being considered for next year’s duplex. Additional information is also available on the Habitat for Humanity of Piatt County Facebook site.

Huisinga can’t wait to hand over the keys to a new homeowner.

“I always get a little choked up each time we go to dedicate the home, or even the ground breaking. Just the fact that our community pulls together to support those in our community who need the help,” she commented.

Crawford-Stock agrees that the end result is worth all the work leading up to that point.

“You don’t often have an opportunity to truly impact a family in that way,” she added.

Habitat uses mostly volunteer labor, resulting in a lower cost to build homes. Recipients still have house payments, but it is much less than traditional home purchasing, sometimes less than they were paying in rent.

“I just think this is a great cause. It’s building homes for people who can’t afford one,” said Montgomery, the newest member of the local Habitat board.

Volunteerism is strong in the Piatt County chapter, said Huisinga.

“It amazes me the people who come (to construction site). Last time we had a church group out of Tuscola who came, so not even from Piatt County. They came to help Davis Construction put up the trusses. They have nothing to do with Piatt County, but just wanted to give of their time,” said Huisinga.

As for the duplex, she said that decision was made because the organization owns lots in Monticello, Bement and DeLand that lend themselves to that possibility.

“The idea is the lots we have would lend well to a duplex, so that’s why we are pursuing this,” she said, noting it will help two families instead of one. We’ll see how it works. If we feel it works well, we may do it other locations that lend themselves to a duplex.”

Information on applying, donating and/or volunteering is available on the Habitat Facebook site, its website, https://www.habitat.org/us-il/monticello/hfh-piatt-county, emailing piattcountyhabitat@gmail.com, or by calling 217-762-9500. Wood donations and delivery can also be arranged by calling the Habitat phone number.

Meetings for applicants

Those wanting to be considered for the duplex to be built in 2020 are encouraged to attend community orientation meetings at 7 p.m. on either Monday, Jan. 6 or Thursday, Jan. 9 at the Livingston Center, 224 E. Livingston St., Monticello.

Habitat for Humanity of Piatt County will look at four areas of selection criteria when reviewing potential applicants:

1) A family’s housing need based on the suitability of current shelter

2) Current income and ability to pay for a Habitat home

3) Willingness to participate as a partner with Habitat

4) Applicants must be a resident of Piatt County at the time of application.

Potential applicants should also bring the following to the orientation meeting: Information on total monthly income from all sources; information on all debts such as loans and credit card balances, and information on monthly expenses including rent and utilities.

All personal and financial information will be kept confidential.

About Habitat

Habitat for Humanity in Piatt County got its start in 1995 as a result of a mission trip to Chili, which assisted in the construction of a high school for residents in the northern portion of the country. In 1996 a steering committee was formed in Piatt County, which eventually joined as a Champaign County affiliate.

Piatt County built its first home in 1999, and separated from Champaign County four years later.

–A total of 14 homes have been built

–Funds raised from the payment of loans are used to finance future builds, which are typically one per year

–Of the original group of founders, several are still active, including Jim Ayers, Dean Dillon, Fred Finn, Ed Jester and Larry McClure

–Nationally, one of the most well-known Habitat volunteers is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who still helps build homes

–While mortgages are interest free, families must agree to pay $500 as a down payment and provide 250 hours per adult as sweat equity in the home build

–Homes have been constructed in Monticello, Bement, Cerro Gordo, DeLand, Atwood and Hammond

–Efforts also included four homes being built in one Monticello neighborhood during an effort called the Walnut Street Rejuvenation Project.