Building A Foundation For The Future


At a lot on West Jones Drive, there is a foundation and temporary framework for a window.

But in the eyes of Leah and Paul Leneberg, there is already a wonderful three-bedroom home standing there. A home with about 1,200 square feet they never thought they would have.


Members of the board of directors for the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity, its previous, present and future home partners, along with community supporters turned over shovels full of dirt at the groundbreaking ceremony for Habitat House 10 Saturday morning. The West Jones Drive home will go to the Leneberg family.

It is blue gray with white trim, the colors Paul wants.

Where the plans called for a garage, there is a family room and the dining room window is centered.

And the house is full of different paint colors and wallpaper designs, because Leah hates plain white walls.

The Leneberg house on West Jones Drive is the 10th home to be built by Payson Area Habitat for Humanity.

Saturday, June 14, the men and women who volunteer their time and talents to make PAHH possible, along with the Lenebergs, their extended family and friends, plus other families who have benefited from the program, gathered for the official groundbreaking ceremony for the house.

Construction actually started more than a month ago. The lot was cleared, underground utilities were installed and the foundation built. The target date to dedicate the finished home is Nov. 9.

The Lenebergs made their application for a PAHH home about 18 months ago.

"I didn't know anything about it (PAHH) until the application arrived in the mail. Monica Oakley from the Mom's Club gave them our name," Leah said.

The young family is living in an apartment and have made their home in Payson for almost three years, though Paul Leneberg grew up in Pine.

They submitted their application and one day, while Leah was in Phoenix visiting her family, Kathy Neblett, the PAHH Family Partnership Chairperson, called their home and told Paul they had been selected for the next Habitat house.

"He called me and I couldn't believe it," Leah said at the groundbreaking ceremony, "I couldn't believe people like us would be able to get a home."

The Lenebergs are building the house in partnership with PAHH. Leah's father has a paint and wallpaper store in Michigan and he is donating the materials to do the inside the way Leah wants. He will be coming to Payson in the fall to do the painting and hang the wallpaper himself, she said.

Many other donations are being contributed to the Leneberg house. At the groundbreaking ceremony, PAHH President Bob Charameda thanked them:

  • Thomas Waters Foundation, $5,000
  • $5,000 anonymous gift
  • 1st National Bank of Arizona, $1,000
  • The Lamb Foundation, $1,000
  • Rim Country Chapter of the Valley of the Sun United Way, $1,000
  • Labor and material donations are coming from many sources, including house plans drafted by Tim Thiel, backhoe work by Dennis Stutzman, foundation material from The Rock Yard, foundation and concrete flatwork by Excaliber Concrete and Plues Brothers Masonry, trash and sanitary service by Waste Management.

Community support of the various PAHH fund-raising events and individual donations also are helping build the Leneberg house, as well as the nine built before it and the two already on the drawing board.

Leah had a select few individuals she wanted to personally thank.

"There are so many who have helped, but the primary ones who have been closely involved with our family are Judy Michel, Judy and Bob Berger, Kathy Neblett and B.J. and Alan Gillingham."

Asked how she would encourage others to take the leap and make an application to PAHH, Leah said, "God has a hand in everything. You can try to do it and if it doesn't work out, it wasn't meant to be, but if it does, it's God's grace that it should happen."

Leah, Paul and their two young sons, Stephen, 3, and Adam, 18 months, have several months and a lot of sweat equity before they move into the house they already see standing on West Jones Drive, but it will be spent in joyful anticipation.

"I want to let everybody know we appreciate everyone's work and prayers. This is really a blessing and so is everyone who is involved," Leah said.

The next home to be built by PAHH will go to Julie Hill and her two children, Jamie Hill, 7, and Brian Hicks, 4. The following home will belong to Jaimee and Eric Hilgendorf and their combination of four children. These two families were selected by the PAHH board of directors at a special meeting April 24.

The Family Selection Committee consisted of 18 people, plus a non-voting chairman. Applications were accepted from Dec. 1, 2002 through Jan. 15, 2003. There were 25 applications submitted, and the committee reviewed 21. One of the 25 withdrew, and three were eliminated for exceeding the maximum income allowed.

Among the criteria considered in making the family selections:

  • Have a housing need -- present housing is "inadequate"
  • Have lived in the Payson area for at least 12 months
  • Have a steady income that meets certain qualifications based on family size
  • Have a good credit rating and the ability to make regular monthly no-interest mortgage payments to PAHH, providing funds to build more Habitat houses
  • Grant permission for a home visit by Family Selection Committee members
  • Be willing to volunteer between 300 and 500 hours of "sweat equity" both in building your own home and others and in performing other PAHH volunteer work
  • Be able to pay closing costs of $1,300 when your house is transferred to you.

PAHH became an accredited affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International in July 1995. Its mission is to build decent, affordable and healthy homes in the Payson area for those in need with low to moderate incomes.

The group's motto, is "PAHH gives a hand up, not a hand out."

For more information about PAHH, call 474-0330 between 9 a.m. and noon, Monday and Wednesday, or between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., Friday.

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