"What a wonderful Christmas gift," exclaimed Gretchen Lenzmeier. "When they told me, I started to cry. I just sat down and started to cry. We're so happy."
Lenzmeier had just received the official word: Her family has been selected to own and occupy the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity's house No. 8.
For a while there, it didn't seem as if that dream was going to come true.
Last June, when the PAHH board of directors chose Christine Garcia to partner with the construction of house No. 7, a second family was put in reserve, said Judy Berger, the organization's office manager. The board felt that a pending grant from the Lion's Club International Foundation to fund the building of the Garcia's house had to be received prior to the board choosing a family for house No. 8.
"PAHH received notice that it is a successful applicant for the (Lion's Club) grant," Berger said. "There were several provisions in the notification letter that had to be successfully met. Those were completed and the documentation (was) forwarded to (the Lion's Club)."
During an executive session this month, the PAHH board of directors felt comfortable with notifying the Lenzmeier family Gretchen and her husband, Jon, and their children Ashly, 11, Krystal, 10, Faith, 4, and Jeffrey, 10.
The family will be partnering with PAHH to build a four-bedroom home in late 2001 or early 2002, depending on funding and other conditions. Their home will be built on a recently acquired and fully-paid-for lot at 2607 Nicholas Drive right next door to the owners of PAHH House No. 4, the Jaime Silva family.
Among the criteria the Lenzmeiers met was the whole family's willingness to complete 500 hours of "sweat equity" by assisting with the construction of Habitat house No. 7, slated to begin next spring, followed by construction work on their own house.
Other "sweat equity" opportunities for the clan include working at PAHH's annual spaghetti dinner March 8; helping with the organization's first "Payson Area Habitat Home Run," a five-kilometer walk and run to be held May 12; and assisting with the Pioneer Title Agency Golf Tournament slated for Aug. 25.
PAHH will award additional sweat equity hours when the Lenzmeiers help at these and other public relations events, either behind the scenes or in front of them. As for the Lenzmeiers, the whole family is planning to put in as many hours as they can.
"We're all going to pitch in," said Gretchen, who works at the Payson Jack-in-the-Box. "Even little Faith came up to me and said, 'Mommy, I can paint!' So she'll be involved, too."
"I want to work on construction," added John, an employee of Ed's Tire and Auto. "I like manual labor, and nothing would make me more proud than working on my own house."
The Lenzmeiers first applied to PAHH last April.
"We didn't think we were going to get it," Gretchen said. "When (Christine Garcia) got house No. 7, we thought that was it for us. So we were shocked when they told us that we'd been accepted. I almost fell over."
"It made my year," Jon said. "We've been paying $650 a month for the past year on rent, and of course we'll never get anything out of it. For us to be able to put the money into something that's going to be ours is just amazing ... The kids can't wait; they want to get into their new house."
Payson Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc., became an accredited affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International in July 1995. To date, six houses have been completed and occupied.
Selected families form a partnership with PAHH, perform many hours of sweat equity, and provide $1,300 to cover closing costs when the home ownership is transferred to them. The homeowners then pay a no-interest monthly mortgage directly to PAHH. This money is plowed back into the building program, allowing more houses to be built.
"If this hadn't worked out, we never would have been able to own our own home," she said. "Not like this. This is just a miracle straight from God."
For more information, call 474-0330.