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Wednesday, November 14, 2012 8:57 PM

Photo by Bobby Burch/The Ottawa Herald

The Bethea family stands Wednesday afternoon in front of their Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County home at 740 S. Elm St., Ottawa. David and Whitney Bethea said they are thankful to the people of Ottawa and Franklin County for their support in constructing their new home, which will give them, their children, nephew and niece more living space. Pictured are, front row: Niylah, 5; middle row: Shavion, 11, Devion, 13 and Kyrie, 17; and back row: Whitney, 26, and David, 31.

Home builds family’s thanks

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer

Next Thursday — when families across the nation join kinfolk and friends to express gratitude for the people and blessings around them — the Bethea family will be extending thanks for their nearly constructed new home.

The four-bedroom house — now being built by Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County — will be a pleasant change for the six-person family that’s accustomed to living in a smaller, more crowded home in north Ottawa.

“It’s an eye-opener to see how great people are to us,” David Bethea, 31, said. “People that don’t even know you will come out to help and reach their hand out without any question.”

“It’s amazing,” Whitney Bethea added. “I’ve never seen so many people that you don’t even know come out and help. ... There really are still good people out there.”

The family applied for housing with Habitat about a year ago, David Bethea said, after a friend recommended they seek out the program for help. David and Whitney now are living with their daughter, Niylah, 5, son, Shavion, 11, nephew Devion, 13, and niece Kyrie, 17, in a house where the kids must share a room, David Bethea said. The new home will offer more space for the kids and an additional bathroom for the parents, Whitney Bethea said.

In addition to more living space, the new home eventually will complete a life goal for the couple — although slightly behind Whitney Bethea’s initial time frame. 

“I always said I wanted to own my own house by the time I was 25, which obviously didn’t happen,” Whitney Bethea, now 26, said. “I tried to hit it.” 

Once sweethearts at Ottawa High School, both Whitney and David grew up in Ottawa, Whitney Bethea said, and stayed in the city after their respective graduations. David now works for the Ottawa school district as lead custodian for Lincoln Elementary School, 1102 N. Milner St., Ottawa, and Whitney works with the Resource Center for Independent Living Inc., 233 W. 23rd St., Ottawa. In addition to spending time together, the family also enjoys friendly games of basketball, Whitney Bethea said. 

The closeness of the family was apparent after their first meeting, Amy McFadden, Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County board of directors chair, said. 

“They are a very good family — very family-oriented and community-oriented,” McFadden said, adding that she performed an in-home interview with the Betheas. “Their kids are in [Ottawa Recreation Commission] sports. You drive by their house at any given time and their kids are playing basketball. ... They’re a great family.”

That sentiment seems to resonate with many others in the Habitat organization, including John Steelman, secretary of the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County. After working alongside the family, Steelman said, he learned the Betheas are a model family for the organization. 

“It’s very rewarding,” John Steelman said of being apart of the Habitat’s build, adding that he worked on the home during the group’s ceremonial wall rasing in late September. “To be there and to see so many people from Ottawa, the partner family and how hard they’re working — it’s exciting to see everyone working on a positive project like that. [The Betheas] seem genuinely appreciative and really a perfect partner family for what Habitat does.”

After work is completed on the house, the Betheas will submit monthly payments to Habitat, McFadden said. When finished, the Betheas’ home, which was started Sept. 29, will be the 12th new housing project for the Franklin County organization.

The home is projected to be completed during the spring, thanks in large part to the efforts of Habitat’s volunteers, Cindy Dengel, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County, said.

“It’s wonderful when you see God’s work at hand,” Dengel said. “You see people help someone who normally wouldn’t be able to get a home. It works really well and when you see it come together, it’s neat to see.” 

To receive the home, the Betheas are required to complete 300 “sweat equity” hours, which is time that must be contributed to the project’s completion or the Habitat organization, Dengel said. With the help of their children and other close family, the Betheas are nearly finished with their sweat equity time, Dengel said, adding that about 75 volunteers have helped to build the home. 

The high number of volunteers has helped to expedite the construction process of the house, she said, in addition to making a fun environment in which to work. 

“There’s been more [volunteers] than usual,” Dengel said. “The progress is so fun to watch.”

That progress has neatly culminated into a near-completed project, Colt Waymire, general contractor for the build, said. After next week, Waymire, who sat on Habitat’s board of directors during the mid-2000s, said the home will be about 70-percent complete, at which time crews will add insulation and drywall to the recently erected walls. 

Pleasant weather, helpful volunteers and positive attitudes have made the building process go smoothly, Waymire said. 

“It’s gone exceedingly well,” Waymire said. “We’ve had the right people at the right time, good people on the construction board, good volunteers with technical knowledge and volunteers provide good labor. I’d say that everything that could go well, has. ... It’s gratifying to help somebody.” 

For those interested in volunteering for the project, call Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County’s volunteer coordinator Cindy Dengel at (785) 241-2472.

“People call it luck,” David Bethea said, “But I call it being very blessed by God.”

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