It's the beginning of a new month, and the beginning of something new for a grateful local mother and her child, as they received a rather early Christmas present that will change their lives.
The Estevan chapter of Habitat for Humanity held the grand opening ceremonies for their new house on Thursday morning, with the joyful faces of Stephanie Bramham and her daughter Teal, their family, the volunteers, and leaders and members of the community all around.
"It's really exciting. I'm nervous today, but it's going to be great. We're going to have our own place, and won't have to worry about so many people being around," Stephanie expressed.
She said that she hopes to move in within the next couple of weeks, and while the major work will probably be done next weekend, they'll be slowly transitioning items into the residence in the meantime. She's already been mentally planning the nest.
"I've been doing that for months, thinking where I should put my bed, how I should arrange my living room," Stephanie shared with a laugh.
The house doesn't come free to the recipient, however, as not only will she be paying it off on a special income based mortgage with no down payment or interest, but she had to put in labour as well, called Sweat Equity.
"I had to take some time off of work to come. I did the insulation, a bunch of painting, staining the fence boards, hung some drywall in the basement, met some people and got to work along with them. It was really good."
She added that the whole process had been a trial of patience as well.
"It really kind of sunk in, when things started to move along, that this is really happening."
"It's always been a dream, to own your own home, where I can't. I'm a single mother, I don't have a bunch of money saved to make a down payment and just the cost of housing, to afford a mortgage," she said, explaining why she decided to apply to Habitat for Humanity to be the beneficiary.
As for four year old Teal..."I think she's excited, and I think she knows what's going on now. She wants to get her stuff in, and they're making some stuff at daycare for her, for her new room."
Teal herself was unwilling to comment, as more pressing matters were at hand, being rather more intent on requesting and aquiring her mother's phone for entertainment.
From an organizer standpoint, Steering Committee Chairman Doug Barnstable was pleased with how things turned out.
"It was great to see a lot of things come together, and nice to see all the smiles on the new family, and all the volunteers that put a lot of time in who can really appreciate the completion of the home. It was good to see all the people who were involved with it here as well to celebrate with us."
He added that there were highlights along the way, such as unexpected suprises that were solved, but the biggest was support from the community.
"It actually went about like I had planned it, I guess. There's always bumps in the road, but we had a great year for weather, so that didn't cause any issues such as delays or mud on the site. We did have a lot of people that were able to help us as needed, and next time we'll be looking at how we can increase the amount of volunteer involvement as we go."
On that note, Barnstable outlined some of what they learned from their first time around that they will apply to the next project.
"What we'll look at is trying to more people involved initially with the fundraising side of it, because that's one of the things that takes a lot of involvement, and it was a long process. It'll take us likely a year of fundraising again to be ready for the next one in 2019."
"Some of the things at the site that we did...we had some real good contributions of things like the use of an office space that we could use on the site, as well as storage with a sea can. All of those things are good, so we'll be aquiring a sea can permenantly so we can keep the materials and tools in it," he added.
They are already getting a head start on fundraising for the next house build, and some of the money left over will carry on for it as well.
He also noted that Stephanie was a great worker.
"She was always anxious to get her time in, but because it was a compressed period that we build it over, just three and a half months, it was a little more difficult for her to get her hours in."
A few touch ups, such as blinds, will be added over the next few days, and then the keys will be handed over.