It was love at first sight for Ivon English when he met his future wife Lois, on campus in Georgia. Through 41 years and two children, the union proved a wonderful match.
Now retired, the husband and wife team has not allowed time to deter them from community involvement as they work to gather building materials, manpower, and funds from all corners of the state to meet the goals of Payson Area Habitat for Humanity (PAHH).
The nonprofit organization helps provide low-income families with home ownership opportunities.
Families living in substandard conditions, from too many people in too small a space to having to live in the homes of friends and relatives, are encouraged to apply. After meeting general requirements, those selected help build their own homes through 300 to 500 hours of unpaid labor known as sweat equity. That's a key element of the program, which provides hardworking people with a home they could never afford on their own.
"PAHH gives individuals a hand up, not a hand out," said Ivon.
The Englishes moved to Payson in 2003. The area had various appeals, among them, "no cockroaches, low humidity, an active golfing community and a great place to ride (members of the Riders of Purple Sage). It is hard to find time for our hobbies," said Ivon.
Although they are also members of Tough Enough to Wear Pink and other nonprofit programs, their focal project is PAHH.
Ivon and Lois have been involved in Habitat for Humanity (HH) since 1996, when the Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta.
At that time, Ivon convinced his former employer to partner with HH to sponsor the development of a home and organized a group of 30 volunteers from the company's staff. The experience made for an easy transition in the couple's commitment with PAHH in 2003.
Lois serves as PAHH's family selection chair. She meets with families to guide them through the application process and delivers the good news when they are chosen as homeowners. In the past, only one family was selected per application period.
Due to the expansion of PAHH with its Longhorn Village development, four families were chosen simultaneously.
Lois said it's such a thrill to watch the joy the families experience, knowing that "they are taking a big step in life (in owning a home)."
Ivon, a former PAHH board member, plays a key role as a dedicated volunteer who works in the construction of the homes, and travels to various Arizona cities to collect building materials, home appliances and household items. PAHH combines the efforts of homeowners, donors and volunteers to provide affordable housing for families whose household income is less than 60 percent of the average in the area.
The average Rim Country income for a single person is about $32,000 and the average for a family of four is about $46,000. Sixty percent of the average income works out to about $19,200 for a single person and $27,420 for a family of four.
However, the average home in Payson costs about $220,000 -- which would require about twice as high a mortgage payment as the people who can qualify for help from HH could normally afford, according to estimates from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Habitat has built a number of new homes for people in Payson and also worked with the town to develop affordable housing solutions.
For instance, Payson has in several cases asked developers of high-end subdivisions to help make sure the town still has a broad workforce by making donations of land and materials to HH, which uses those donations to get more working people into their own homes.
So Habitat for Humanity tries to give hard-working people a chance to make a bid on the American Dream.
"PAHH treats everyone with dignity and respect," said Ivon.
When asked what advice to give anyone interested in volunteering: "Try it, you'll like it," said Lois.
Volunteers are welcome. For volunteer opportunities, call the PAHH office at (928) 474-0330. The application period for the Longhorn Village Project ends March 31. Anyone interested may contact PAHH, (928) 474-0330; or Lois English, (928) 468-8512.
Payson Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc.
Officers: President Charles Proudfoot, Vice President Bruce E. Hopkins, Secretary Debra Colbertson, Treasurer Nancy A. Hartley
Board members: Ken Althoff, Del Bohlmeyer, Elaine Bohlmeyer, Diane Bricker, Wayne Donnay, Ivon English, Lois English, Ross Hage, Tom Herbolsheimer, Gene Sampson and Mark Sopeland
Meetings: Board meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. in Room 304 at Payson United Methodist Church, 414 N. Easy St., and are open to the public.
Vision: The group's vision is to build a community of volunteers, donors and homeowners which provide decent, affordable homes annually for households with incomes that are less than 60 percent of the average in the area.