According to recent census data, the overall poverty rate for Athens County is the highest in Ohio. The statistics underscore the important work of Habitat for Humanity of Southeast Ohio, which was founded in 1990 to advocate for affordable housing in the area.

Thirty years and 99 houses later, the organization is as needed as ever during the economic hardship caused by the global pandemic. AEP Ohio is helping Habitat for Humanity of Southeast Ohio with an important milestone – building its 100th house in the community – by contributing $10,000 in the effort to build a home for a local mother and her child in Athens County.

A mother and her child will be the recipient of the new home in Athens County.

The site is symbolic because the organization started in Athens County before expanding into seven neighboring counties in 2013. Groundbreaking is scheduled to begin in early April and excavating and foundation-laying – the two aspects of the job that can’t be accomplished with volunteers – will occur soon after. Weather permitting, the house will be complete in 16 weeks.

“It’s a really big milestone for us and we’re super grateful for our partnership with AEP Ohio,” said Caitlyn Moritz, director of community engagement for Habitat for Humanity of Southeast Ohio. “We’re excited to be doing this project because it’s one more home for a family who desperately needs it.”

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the homebuilding process both because of the increasing price of lumber – the overall cost to build one of these homes now exceeds $100,000 – and because social distancing requirements have stifled volunteer groups. For example, AEP Ohio employees would typically offer hands-on participation in this project but COVID-19 restrictions are prompting discussions about alternative ways to help.

These logistical details slip away once the roof is raised and the final nail is hammered. These houses are meant to long outlast COVID-19. It’s not a quick fix; it’s a permanent soliton. As one recipient recently put it, “Being a Habitat homeowner has given my family stability in an unstable time.”

Published April 2, 2021

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