Habitat for Humanity welcomes first four families into Orléans homes

Through community support, the east-end development will eventually grow to house 16 families
Annie and Hunter
Annie and Hunter. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

When Annie first learned she had been chosen to become a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, she was in the car taking her son, Hunter, to daycare.

It quickly turned into one of the most emotional rides of her life.

“I remember just crying and crying,” recalls Annie.

The single mother applied to Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa’s (Habitat GO) program slightly more than a year ago, despite not expecting much to come of it.

“I never thought I’d be a homeowner,” she says.

Fast-forward to 2018, however, and 34-year-old Annie and Hunter, five, have just moved into their new house at Leacross Landing in Orléans.

As a Habitat GO homeowner, Annie received a long-term, interest-free mortgage on her home, which was built by teams of dedicated volunteers. Building materials were both donated by and purchased through the support of corporate sponsors.

Homeowners are also asked to contribute 500 hours of sweat equity back into the organization, whether through volunteering on the build site for their own home or by working in the Habitat GO ReStore. For single-parent households such as Annie’s, families are asked to contribute 350 hours.

A family home

Annie is proudly Inuit, having been born and raised in Pangnirtung, a small community on Nunavut’s Baffin Island. She originally moved to Ottawa 10 years ago to attend college, and has spent her time since divided between the nation’s capital and her home territory. The decision to settle in Ottawa came when Hunter was born.

As a member of Ottawa’s 4,000-strong Inuit community, Annie has built her career around educating the public on Indigenous culture. She currently works with Canada World Youth as the organization’s director of Indigenous programming.

Since finding out her family was selected, Annie has busied herself thrift shopping for furnishings, even making some purchases at Habitat GO’s own ReStore.

“We’ve been having a lot of fun all year choosing stuff for our house,” says Annie.

Hunter, who turned five on the family’s July 1 move-in day, particularly enjoyed picking out items for his own bedroom. Among them are posters depicting different species of dinosaurs and bugs, and a collection of kids’ books in the Inuktitut language.

Key ceremony

In recognition of the many hands that go into these homes, Habitat GO hosts a key ceremony prior to each cohort of families moving in.

Four families, including Annie and Hunter, received homes in the first phase of the Leacross Landing development. Phase two will see four more families moved into the east-end townhouse community, with the final plans allowing room for a total of 16 families.

At the June 14 ceremony, Mayor Jim Watson spoke alongside a number of other local dignitaries. Sponsors, including Roslyn Bern from development sponsor the Leacross Foundation, had an opportunity to meet the families and present them with the keys to their new homes.

The phase one families
The phase one families pose together as a ceremonial shovel is passed to a child from a phase two family. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

“It gives a feeling of connection to the cause,” says Alexis Ashworth, Habitat GO’s CEO.

Ashworth herself made the decision to get involved with Habitat for Humanity after attending a key ceremony years ago in Nova Scotia.

She explains that while many sponsors take part in Build Days and have the opportunity to meet families there, the key ceremonies serve as a tangible example of the work that goes into erecting a Habitat GO home.

The ceremonies are attended by Habitat GO families, volunteers, sponsors, employees and community members.

“It’s a way to celebrate the culmination of all of those efforts,” says Ashworth.

And as Annie and Hunter settle into their new home, a new grouping of families is preparing to start their journey to homeownership with Habitat GO.

Last month’s key ceremony ended with a child from a phase one family passing a ceremonial shovel to a child who will move into a new home in phase two – a symbolic gesture underscoring the collective effort that goes into building stronger communities.

Wondering how your company can get involved? Habitat GO is always looking for corporate teams that want to make a tangible impact with their philanthropic efforts. Help out on a build site raising a wall or laying a floor, and meet a Habitat GO family in the process. To learn more, head to HabitatGO.com.