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Kalamazoo family becomes 182nd Habitat for Humanity partner family to dedicate their home

By Simon A. Thalmann, Kalamazoo Gazette

2538 days ago   Article ID# 1436731
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Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity

KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN (Kalamazoo Gazette) - Super Bowl Sunday was extra super for Kalamazoo resident Kristi Runge and her kids, who opened their new Habitat for Humanity home to the public for a dedication ceremony.

Runge, who currently lives with her kids Darien Alexander, 13, Gabriel Alexander, 5, and Brynn Alexander, 2, in a townhouse on the city's west side, said the opportunity to own a home is the culmination of months of hard work.

"It's awesome," Runge said of completing the 1,100-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bathroom home, located at 1201 Nichols Road. "It's an amazing feeling."

Her son Gabriel, hiding in the closet of what will soon be his very own bedroom -- he currently shares a room with his older brother -- echoed his mother, with added enthusiasm.

It's "super awesome," he said.

Ann Kilkuskie, development coordinator for the Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity, said the Runge/Alexander family is the 182nd partner family to dedicate their home in the Kalamazoo County area since 1983.

The family will move into the Energy Star energy-efficient house, which Kilkuskie said has been worked on by about 500 volunteers, within next few months.

As family, friends and other Habitat volunteers crowded into Runge's kitchen and living room areas, Kilkuskie formerly welcomed the family to their new home.

"This is the first of what I hope will be many wonderful parties in your home," Kilkuskie said.

The Habitat home

To become a Habitat homebuyer, partner families must meet certain financial guidelines and go through an application process, Kilkuskie said, along with completing 300 to 500 hours of "sweat equity" volunteering with the organization and attending homeownership and financial literacy classes.

Runge said she began working with the organization in August 2009.

"It's just an awesome program, it really is," she said. "The sense of community you get from it is really great."

Construction on Runge's home was started in September 2010 by students enrolled in the construction trades program at the Van Buren County Intermediate School District Technology Center in Lawrence. It was moved in two pieces to its current location by truck and was set by a crane last June onto a foundation built by Education for Employment Building Trades Program students from Comstock High School, who also built a shed on the lot.

Kilkuskie said the lot, a large plot dotted with trees and bordered on three sides by sidewalks, was donated by someone who chooses to remain anonymous.

"It was a very huge blessing and a very huge gift," she said.

The home itself includes 2-by-6 exterior walls with 1 inch of blueboard on the outside to increase the home's capacity for insulation, as well as an energy recovery ventilation system, a 97 percent efficiency furnace and a tankless on-demand water heater.

It's also handicap accessible and "adaptable," as Kilkuskie put it, with a wheelchair ramp leading up to the back door, wider than normal hallways and doorways and blocking installed in the bathroom walls in case grip bars need to be installed at a later date.

Also included with the home will be a stove and refrigerator donated by the Whirpool Corporation -- who donates the items to every Habitat house in the U.S., according to Kilkuskie -- and mini blinds donated by Hunter Douglas.

Sha'na Cole, who lived a few doors down from Runge until moving into her own Habitat home a month ago, said she had an awesome experience working with the organization.

"The houses are great and beautiful," she said. "I recommend it to everyone."

'Go Kristi!'

Alan McDowell, president of the Westwood Neighborhood Association, was on hand at the dedication ceremony to welcome Runge and her family to the neighborhood. He said he's gotten a "very positive response" from all the neighbors he's spoken to about the family and their home.

"We're very excited about Kristi moving to the neighborhood," he said. "It's a great addition."

Runge stood behind her kids during the dedication ceremony, holding a Bible to her chest. She choked up slightly as she made her closing remarks.

"I just want to say thank you to everyone for coming out," she said. "I'm very excited. I'm very emotional. ... Thank you."

Kilkuskie followed up with a hearken back to the unofficial holiday that is Super Bowl Sunday.

"Whether you're a Giants fan, a Patriots fan, a football fan, thank you all for being here," Kilkuskie said. "Go Kristi!"

Copyright 2019 Kalamazoo Gazette   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 2538 days ago   Article ID# 1436731

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