Sherrie Mathus and her 10-year-old daughter, Sage, live in a poorly insulated trailer near Green Valley Park.
Sage, a Julia Randall Elementary School fourth-grader, said her home is in bad condition -- the floor is cracked, the ceiling leaks and the air is chilly inside.
"I have my own room, but it's tiny," she added.
That's all going to change.
In March, construction begins on the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity's 13th project: the Mathus' new two-bedroom, one-bathroom site-built home.
"It'll be a brand-new house," Sherrie said. "We get to participate in the design."
Pastor Charles Proudfoot, president of the organization's local chapter, said the Mathus case is uncommon; Habitat for Humanity normally chooses larger families over a single mother with one child.
"Actually this is the second time we've done it," Proudfoot said. "The judging process is very exhaustive. There are a bunch of criteria that are applied. As a result, a few families come to the top. Sherrie's name was in the top three."
Nevertheless, the opportunity didn't come easily.
Sherrie applied -- and was turned down -- three times. In 2005, the Habitat for Humanity board chose another family, but they backed out.
"(The board) went to the next family on the list and that was us," Sherrie said.
John and Sue Wilson will serve as Sherrie and Sage's mentors during the homebuilding process, helping them navigate the financial and planning logistics of their new home.
"We stay on for at least a year," John Wilson said. "All of this is designed to show they have ownership of the home. They'll be proud to live there because they were part of building it."
Sweat equity is the foundation of Habitat for Humanity's program.
"(The commitment) is 300 hours per case, 180 of which are done by Sage and Sherrie," John Wilson said. "And you can bring in your friends and family."
The volunteer work contributed by others, Wilson added, counts toward the sweat-equity obligation.
In return, Habitat for Humanity provides simple, yet decent, housing for low-income families.
"What is really fantastic about this program is the entire monthly payment will not exceed 25 percent of her income ... and no interest," John Wilson said. "They buy it. All the money (Sherrie) is paying goes back into the program."
To qualify, Habitat for Humanity prescribes minimum income and credit requirements, a down payment, and a monthly mortgage that includes the principal, tax and insurance.
"They have to be living in substandard housing and have the ability to pay the mortgage," Proudfoot said. "Habitaters are constantly getting comments that they get a free house. That's not the case."
As the project gets under way, Sherrie and Sage said they can't wait until their new home is finished in March.
"It's going to be tight, but it's going to be ours," Sherrie said.
To volunteer services, material or time, or to apply, contact the Payson Area Habitat for Humanity, (928) 474-0330.