Teri Root and her children stand in their new kitchen as members of the community, volunteers and Habitat for Humanity staff dedicated their home of Monday, June 17.  From left are Aalyiah, Tannen, Haven, Tatum, hiding behind her sister, Teahya, and Teri Root.
Teri Root and her children stand in their new kitchen as members of the community, volunteers and Habitat for Humanity staff dedicated their home of Monday, June 17. From left are Aalyiah, Tannen, Haven, Tatum, hiding behind her sister, Teahya, and Teri Root.
Surrounded by her loved ones and community members, Teri Root expressed her appreciation for the support she received in becoming a homeowner during a special dedication ceremony held on Monday, June 17, at her new house in Harmony.

Root, a single mother of five, has been partnering with Habitat for Humanity for the past seven months to build her new home. She devoted 300 sweat equity hours through the construction process, building walls, hanging doors, putting up siding, painting and doing just about anything and everything she could to make a new opportunity for her family.

With tears in her eyes and a big smile on her face, Root signed a symbolic mortgage during the celebration and accepted the keys to her new home. While the official closing of the sale does not happen until later this week, a special celebration was held to mark the completion of the construction and to bless the home before Root and her children move in next week.

"It's been pretty surreal to say the least," Root said. "Thank you all for putting up with me. When we started, I could barely pound in a nail, but I can honestly say I figured it out!"

The journey has been amazing, Root added, saying she appreciated the opportunity to be able to come back to where she spent her childhood and to give her kids the opportunity to grow up here as well, surrounded by family and friends.

"It's pretty exciting that in a few weeks we get to move in and call it home," she continued. "Thank you from the bottom of all of our hearts."

Megan Grebe, the community outreach development coordinator for Fillmore County, explained to those gathered inside the home that she was also grateful to the numerous volunteers and supporters who made the Habitat for Humanity house a reality in Harmony. "It has been a long road," she said. "You've been patient and hardworking. You've stuck with us through mud, rain, snow and sunshine."

Grebe explained the Harmony Steering Committee has been working on fundraising for the past three years and construction for more than a year. She complimented Fillmore County for embracing the project and noted the business community and residents had been very generous in their support.

A special presentation of a quilt was symbolic of that community support as the quilt blocks were signed by hundreds of area residents over the past few months. Local quilters sewed the blocks together and Marilyn Bratager quilted it, with others sewing on the binding. The quilt was presented to the family as a housewarming gift from the community, a symbol of its continuing love and support.

Members of the Harmony Steering Committee presented special gifts to bless the Root home as well, including a basket, a plant, a bottle of sparkling cider, a Bible and a framed piece of art.

As the dedication ceremony continued, Habitat director Nancy Iglesias wished the Root family all the best and that their new home would offer "doors of opportunity and windows of hope."

She also stressed to those gathered that Root is not getting a free house. Root has already invested a down payment in addition to completing her sweat equity hours of work on the home. Habitat helps its families by making homeownership affordable by offering 30-year, zero-interest loans.

The home is a one-story, ranch-style, built with Insulated Concrete Forms, which makes it very energy efficient. The concrete-and-foam wall system results in a very air tight, very well insulated home. Inside the walls, the homes incorporate energy-efficient appliances, low-allergen flooring and low-flow plumbing fixtures. Other Habitat homeowners in similar homes built by Habitat for Humanity Winona-Fillmore Counties have seen an annual utility savings of up to $400 over the Minnesota average.

As the dedication ceremony came to a conclusion, Grebe explained that the Habitat for Humanity efforts would be going forward in Fillmore County. The focus for the next year will be to offer A Brush With Kindness program to current homeowners to help with exterior home improvements to maintain the value of a home.

Habitat for Humanity joins forces with corporate partners, community organizations and churches to repair, repaint and landscape homes.

An affordable program fee will be charged to the homeowner to help defray the cost of materials. Family income and scope of work to be done will be used to determine an appropriate and realistic monthly repayment plan.

If one would like to receive help or wants more information, on A Brush With Kindness, contact Habitat for Humanity at (507) 459-4199.

Following the dedication ceremony, the volunteers and community members were invited to stay for an appreciation picnic, honoring everyone who contributed to making the completion of the house possible.

The Root home is one of 47 homes built by the Winona and Fillmore County affiliate since 1994. In addition to the 26 homes within the city of Winona, Habitat has built homes in Lewiston, St. Charles, Minnesota City, Altura, Stockton, Utica, Rushford and now Harmony.