SARANAC LAKE - A local family planned to spend this holiday weekend moving into their new home, thanks to the help and financial support of Adirondack Habitat for Humanity.
It's a moment that Howard Peckham Jr., his partner Kelly Hayes and their 2-year-old son Jonah have been waiting a long time for - two years, actually.
"We've been building the house for (Jonah's) whole life," Peckham said. "He's ready to move in, and we are, too."
Adirondack Habitat for Humanity dedicated its 10th house, this one on Old Lake Colby Road, on Tuesday. Those participating in the ceremony include the homeowners, front row, Kelly Hayes, Howard Peckham and their son Jonah. Standing in the back are Habitat board members Marty Rolley and Erica Neufeld, Deacon Fred Oberst, Habitat board member Sandy Aery, Habitat volunteer Mark Rooks and Habitat board President Paul Herrmann.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
The two-story home, located at 194 Old Lake Colby Road, was purchased by the local Habitat chapter through foreclosure in 2009. Peckham said he and Hayes had actually been interested in buying it before Habitat purchased it.
"We heard the house was available and they were seeking applicants for it," Peckham said. "We saw a lot of potential in the home, so we figured we might as well throw our names in the hat and see what happens. We went to a couple meetings and ended up being the selected family, which is pretty exciting."
Adirondack Habitat builds and renovates affordable housing at no profit for income-qualified families in the Tri-Lakes. Families must have enough income to buy the house through a no-interest mortgage and agree to work 400 hours of "sweat equity" before they can occupy the home.
Renovations to the home began in the summer of 2010. Peckham, who works full time as a pharmacy technician at Adirondack Medical Center-Saranac Lake, said he and Hayes had no problem meeting the "sweat equity" requirement over the last two years.
"I'd say we easily tripled if not quadrupled that number (400 hours)," he said. "We jumped right in and did all we could."
The home, built in the 1880s, needed a lot of work. Habitat board member Marty Rowley, who's been involved with different Habitat chapters for over 20 years and has helped build 35 houses, said this project was one of the longer-running ones he's ever been a part of.
"This is the first reconstruction I've done for Habitat," he said. "Everything else has been new houses, which go quicker and there's less unknowns. This one, we did everything. It was totally gutted. We replaced all the plumbing, electrical and insulation. There's new Sheetrock, new siding, new roof, new windows and a new heating system. It's a totally new house."
Why did Rowley and many other volunteers do this?
"It's one of my ways of giving back to society," Rowley said. "I just enjoy doing it."
The home was formally dedicated in a small ceremony Tuesday. It's the first home Peckham and Hayes have owned. They previously rented a house in the village, rented a trailer in Onchiota and most recently have been living in Peckham's parents' renovated basement in Loon Lake.
"It's been a while coming, and we couldn't be happier to move in," he said. "This is what we've been waiting for the whole time. It will help us achieve our long-term goals and give Jonah a great place to grow up. We're really excited about it."
Adirondack Habitat board President Paul Herrmann said the total cost of the renovation is roughly $133,000. Peckham and Hayes will have to pay $115,000 of that back over 25 years at zero-percent interest. The village also contributed an $18,000 loan to the project.
"This project took longer than it should have, but we got it done," Herrmann said. "They were very patient. This family did a tremendous amount of sweat equity. They worked really hard."
This is the 10th house that Adirondack Habitat for Humanity has dedicated in the Tri-Lakes, two of which were renovations and eight were new homes. Herrmann said the chapter is already planning its next project. It recently brought a vacant Neil Street lot from the village at auction for $9,100 and will look for an applicant for a new house there, Herrmann said.