Habitat for Humanity begins construction on its first home of 2022, a four-bedroom in Ravenna

Image of a family and public officials with shovels about to dig into a vacant grassy lawn
Andy Powe Sr. formally broke ground with a golden shovel on his family's new home in Ravenna. Jeremy Brown/The Portager

Habitat for Humanity of Portage County broke ground on a new home in Ravenna for a family from Barberton on Sept. 7, only the first new housing project of the year as supply and labor shortages have slowed the pace of construction.

The acre and a half lot was furnished by the Portage County Land Bank and has a small pond at the back. The 1,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, two-bathroom home will take about a year to build, said Habitat Construction Manager Joshua Lehman.

Shatia and Andy Powe Sr. currently live in Barberton with their five children: Jataijai Roland, Hezaciah Jones, Andy Powe Jr., Asia Powe and Alease Powe. 

Shatia said she plans to grow an organic garden in the backyard, which she says will include all of her favorite salad ingredients. 

The Powe’s current living situation not only lacks a garden, it’s way too small for the family of seven and their dog. Shatia said her new house will be not only larger, but it will also have more closet space. She’s also excited about the location.

“This is going to help me out a lot, as far as the future,” Shatia said. “And I love this area. I love it. I appreciate everything, I really do. It seems like I’ve been through a lot, and something’s finally happening that I’m very excited about, so I’m just blessed.”

Representatives from Habitat for Humanity of Portage County, United Way of Portage County, Portage County Land Bank, Ravenna Mayor Frank Seman, Portage County Commissioner Sabrina  Christian-Bennett and several community members gathered at the property on Summit Road for a groundbreaking ceremony.

For several months, the Powe family has been working with Habitat Community Director Kaleena Gharky to meet the demands that are required by recipients of Habitat’s affordable housing solutions. 

“Each family is required to do 250 hours [of sweat equity] per adult,” Gharky said. “I have worked with Shatia and Andy on getting their sweat equity hours in. They completed credit counseling and different courses, and they also have to do their sweat equity, which started on, actually, project 71, over on East Lake Street. They’re project 72. We’re really excited to be working with them. This will just be a whole new future for them — a positive one, so we’re excited.”

Habitat Executive Director Rachel Kerns delivered the opening remarks of the ceremony, followed by a few words from Gharky.

“I want to thank everybody in the community that has made this possible,” Gharky said. “It’s because of your generosity that we’re able to do what we do here. After we break ground here today, we’ll continue to raise funds for the Powe’s house.”

Andy Powe Sr. formally broke ground with a golden shovel.

“These are always exciting to do,” Seman said. “This is an unusual lot, too, that they’re gonna be on. It’s a great setting for them. They earn it, they help build it. It’s worked out very well for the folks that do it, and this is a great charity. It’s a great opportunity for the families.”

With the nationwide labor shortage and the current cost of construction materials, projects have been moving at a slower pace.

“We used to do two to three houses a year,” Kerns said, “and we’re doing one to two now. In some cases we don’t even get a house done a year, just depending on the structure of the people who are doing outsource services. This last project, we had so many people cancel, like, ‘Oh, we can’t come out and put in your HVAC in time, it’s gonna be two months.’ There’s a delay in everything. There’s a delay in products right now, there’s a delay in services.”

Costs, too, are complicating new builds.

“The cost of construction has gone up substantially, so a home this size before the pandemic would have cost us roughly $135,000,” she said. “It’s now gonna cost us roughly $185,000.”

If you’d like to make a monetary donation to Habitat for Humanity of Portage County, or would like to volunteer your labor, you can visit their website for more information at https://www.habitatofportage.org/waystogive.

Jeremy Brown
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