Today, the corner of Chester and East Avenues in Kenmore is a triangular shaped plot of grass. But, within 2 years, it will become a neighborhood for 8 families living in new homes thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Summit County, Akron Children’s Hospital and the City of Akron.
The project, one of the largest launched by Habitat for Humanity of Summit County, was announced at a groundbreaking ceremony in August. The project will be divided into 2 phases with 4 homes built in the first year and the next 4 in the following year.
The 1.3 acre parcel of land in Akron’s Kenmore neighborhood was donated by Akron Children’s, which had come to own it through a donation. The city is also providing critical support. Through its HOME Partnership Funds, the city has committed to 2 phases with $160,000 per phase at $40,000 per home.
“I am thankful for the partnership of Habitat for Humanity and Akron Children’s Hospital,” said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. “With each new Akron home we are helping to grow the city’s population by attracting new residents and meeting the housing needs of existing residents. Through city policies like tax abatement and community partnerships like this, we can ensure than Akronites of all backgrounds have the opportunity to live in safe, accessible and affordable housing.”
One of the new homeowners is Charnee Merritt, whose 11-year-old son, Israel, has been being treated at Akron Children’s for neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system, since 2014. He had no evidence of cancer in 2016 but he relapsed this past May.
With all the stress of having a child with cancer, planning for her new home has been a happy and hopeful diversion, said Merritt, a home care nurse who has devoted 250 hours of “sweat equity” as part of her partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
“Through the program, I have met the other families and we have become one family,” she said. “I know I will be living side by side with other families and we will watch out for one another and each other’s children. That’s why I chose this location for our house. We already have a sense of community.”
Through a Habitat class, Merritt has learned a lot about organic gardening and she plans to grow organic broccoli, carrots and lettuces in a raised bed in her new backyard.
“I’m a city girl – I am from Cleveland Heights – so this is truly a blessing,” she said.
Since 1987, Habitat for Humanity of Summit County has built more than 200 homes with qualified low-income families, housing more than 200 adults and 375 children in simple, decent, affordable housing.
According to Rochelle Sibbio, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Summit County, this is the local chapter’s largest project to date with the organization typically building one home at a time on vacant lots. This project required the assistance of a design and survey class from the University of Akron to plot the location of the 8 homes and their property lines. The city will provide the water lines and Habitat the sewer lines.
“Akron Children’s is pleased to be able to donate the land that will be used to construct Habitat for Humanity homes in Kenmore,” said Bill Considine, CEO of Akron Children’s. “We are in the business of keeping children healthy and safe, and we know that many factors, beyond the doors of our hospital, impact a child’s trajectory in life – from access to affordable housing and nutritious food to high quality education. This project is a great example of our community coming together for the benefit of children and families.”