Hoosier mom receives help from Habitat for Humanity, lawmakers

By Katie Stancombe
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – One single mother from Indianapolis never expected that the bones of a home would be built on the Statehouse lawn, by Hoosier lawmakers – just for her.  

Eight years ago, Ebony Duffy applied for housing help through Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income families build safe and affordable housing.

Ebony Duffy poses with her future home that is being built on the Statehouse lawn.
Photo by Nicole Hernandez, TheStatehouseFile.com

At the time, Duffy didn’t have enough income to qualify for the program. But after finding a new job and working on her credit score, she decided to try one more time.  

“I wasn’t going to do it again, I was going to wait a little longer but then something just told me, go ahead and do it,” she said.

Just over a year later, Habitat for Humanity trucks pulled up to the Indiana Statehouse ready to work. More than 160 volunteers, including roughly 60 legislators, strapped on their tool belts Wednesday and began building the framework of Duffy’s home.

The Indiana General Assembly teamed up with the non-profit as its charity of the year. This is the first home build on Statehouse grounds, which aimed to generate awareness of the need for low-income Hoosiers to receive affordable housing.

“It’s very exciting to actually be here today, to actually meet the young lady that’s going to be the homeowner,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. “It’s just great; it’s a perfect day out here.”

In all, funds raised to cover the costs of materials for the build surpassed the initial goal of $30,000 – reaching $50,500.

Habitat for Humanity of Indiana State Director, Gina Leckron, said those who donated passed the their goal tremendously. Donations raised beyond the $30,000 will help provide training and support for Habitat affiliates throughout the state.

“When we raised this money and we went over the goal, it was very clear that what we’re doing today represents the state of Indiana,” Leckron said. “We really have leveraged this to be a statewide event.”

First time volunteers included Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Merrilville, who said she was looking forward to building a house for Duffy.

Lawmakers and volunteers come together to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity.
Photo by Nicole Hernandez, TheStatehouseFile.com

“I’m having fun out here,” she said. “There are three walls up so I think we’ve made great progress and it’s only been an hour and a half. I can’t wait until the end of the day where you can really see the house as it is.”

Olthoff and other lawmakers worked alongside Habitat volunteers like Terry Cohoat, who helped instruct on how to build wall panels to those who hadn’t worked on a build with the organization before.

“They are volunteers, and we’re teaching them as we go,” Cohoat said. “Some have never hammered a nail. By the time they’re done today, they’ve hammered a few nails.”

Cohoat and her team are considered permanent volunteers, working consistently on sites across the state.

She said most Habitat homes take roughly two months to complete. Lawmakers and volunteers jumpstarted that process by constructing the wall panels that will eventually serve as the framework for Duffy’s future home.

“When we take this to the job site, it goes up like a house raising. All of the walls will go up in one day, interior and exterior,” Cohoat said. “But this gives us a head start in the building process.”

Families involved in Habitat for Humanity are required to put in “sweat equity” during the building process. They also take homeowner and financial classes before buying their homes with zero interest loans.

Most Habitat families have a mortgage payment that includes taxes and insurance for less than $500 a month.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma introduce single mother Ebony Duffy who will be the future homeowner of the house being built on the Statehouse lawn.
Photo by Nicole Hernandez, TheStatehouseFile.com

As the event wrapped up, Duffy walked around the framework of what she and her 8-year-old daughter will eventually call home.

The expected finish date for the Duffy’s home is June 16, which will be built on the westside of Indianapolis.

She said that she’s grateful to have the support of Habitat for Humanity and the General Assembly, especially as a single mom.

“I wasn’t expecting it would be like this at all,” she said. “But to be surrounded by so many people that really do care is truly a blessing.”

Katie Stancombe is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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