Habitat for Humanity helps its sixth family in Sussex County

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    FRANKLIN-Steve and Rachel Van Dyk and their three young daughters, Emily, Caitlin and Chelsea, were surrounded by dozens of relatives and friends on Sunday afternoon as Sussex County Habitat for Humanity president, John Iliff presented the family with a ceremonial key to their new house. A dream came true for the Franklin family last month when they closed on their brand new four-bedroom house on Rutherford Ave. "We closed on the Feb. 25 and slept here the next night, we are really happy about it all," said Steve Van Dyk. The Van Dyks, who submitted their application to Habitat for Humanity in October, 2003, found out last April their application had been approved. Since then, they've put in a lot of work on the house, making their down payment with "sweat equity." "We were required to each put in 200 hours," said Steve. "And any teenage children are required to put in 100 hours, but since our daughters were too young, we could make up the difference with other family members," he added. The many relatives who pitched in came Sunday for the ceremony. In all, Steve said he and his wife put an estimated 1,000 hours into the construction of their home. "We have a formula based on income, the number in the family and the housing need," said Iliff, the Habitat president. "We hold the mortgage and basically just charge the family the cost of the materials; we do not charge interest." The Van Dyks both grew up in Sussex County, Steve in Franklin and Rachel in Hamburg. They had been renting an apartment on Buckwheat Road, and, before learning about Habitat and applying for the program, had come to believe they would never be able to afford a home. Iliff said that Habitat for Humanity doesn't discuss the financial circumstances of the families it helps, but he said that applicants must have steady employment. "With the house we have so much more room and the girls each have their own bedroom," Rachel Van Dyk said. "When we lived in the apartment, I used to help the landlord with the garden. Now I have my own garden and I can plant my own flowers." The Van Dyk's house is the sixth the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity has built. Work is underway on the seventh. "Last week a family in Stillwater lost their house to a fire and had no insurance so someone in Lake Tranquility is donating a modular home and we will start work on that and hope to have the family in by the summer," said Iliff. Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian housing organization. Since 1976, the organization that former President Jimmy Carter volunteers for has built more than 175,000 houses in 100 countries, providing shelter for nearly 900,000 people worldwide.