Partners For Habitat For Humanity's Lucky 13 Selected

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Imagine not knowing, from day-to-day, whether you'll have a home for yourself and your family.

This is how Tom and Sumer Chambers and their three children have been living.

After relocating from an old, shoddy house to a small, but comfortable home in Star Valley several months ago, they were notified that their new home and the property on which it was located were for sale.

For the past few months, the Star Valley home had worked out fine. The children slept in the home's two bedrooms, while their parents, Tom and Sumer, transformed the sunroom into their bedroom.

On Dec. 8, their living situation still in limbo, Tom and Sumer received a call that would change everything.

"We were wishing, wishing and wishing, and it came true," said Sumer.

Payson Area Habitat for Humanity informed Tom and Sumer that they and their three children, Tom Jr., 10; Armondo, 8; and Skyler, 4, had been selected to help build and occupy Habitat for Humanity house 13.

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Members of the Chambers family are actively involved in the planning stages for their new home -- Habitat for Humanity's house 13.

"She cried," said Tom, 30, of Sumer's reaction.

"I lost it," said Sumer.

Sumer is a cool mom. You can tell. Her dark, shoulder-length hair reflects a violet tint. The always-smiling mother of three works 40 hours a week, tending to mentally and physically disabled men at the outreach program, Arizona Mentors. Sumer teaches them independence. Some days she's on the job for 12 hours.

"I am running ragged all the time," said Sumer.

Tom divides his time between taking care of the boys and making hand-crafted rustic furniture. His youngest son, Skyler, is getting an early start in the business with his father.

"I help my dad build furniture," said Skyler. "I like to sand (the wood)."

Although Tom makes most of his furniture for relatives, he said he can't wait to start designing custom pieces for his new home.

"All of it's going to be my own work," said Tom.

The Chambers started applying for their new home in summer 2004.

According to Payson Area Habitat for Humanity Public Relations Coordinator Judy Berger, the screening process is tough.

"It's just as stringent as applying for a regular mortgage," said Berger.

For one, applicants must earn enough money to provide a down payment after the house is completed and the title has been transferred from Payson Area Habitat for Humanity to the new owners. Applicants must also cover monthly, no-interest house payments, have good credit and have lived in Payson for the past 12 months.

Payson Area Habitat for Humanity also takes into consideration a family's need and living situation.

"Are they living in a substandard situation where they cannot grow and flourish?" said Berger.

Applicants must also be willing to partner with Habitat for Humanity. Families must donate their time, not only to their project, but to construction of other Payson Area Habitat for Humanity projects, termed "sweat equity." Families invest 500 hours; individual applicants are required to put in 300 hours.

Although a site for the Chambers' new home hasn't been selected, and construction is still a year away, the Chambers and their Boston terrier and bulldog mix, Sable, named after a female professional wrestler, have big plans for their brand-new four-bedroom home.

"I'm looking forward to having my own personal area," said Tom Jr., who now shares a bedroom with his brother.

Armondo paused for a moment, "I'm thinking about a garage to put my bike in."

The new house will be built, for the most part, to the Chambers' specifications. They'll get to choose paint, flooring and carpeting. Energy-efficient appliances, fixtures and windows will be installed to minimize utility costs.

Berger encourages the family, as they see homes and designs they like, to take notes.

"I like the more earthy tones," said Tom. "Dark green and stone gray."

Throughout the entire process, Del and Elaine Bohlmeyer of the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity, will serve as the Chambers' mentors, helping them keep track of sweat equity, working out budgets and acting as a sounding board for the life-changing event.

"Everybody needs a mentor," said Elaine.

Sumer Chambers, who applied for the program eight years ago and was turned down, encourages persistence. That's how she's living her dream, for herself and her family.

"I need a home to raise my boys," said Sumer. "It's a blessing. It's definitely a blessing."

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