In the News 2004
A dream comes true for Habitat family
Distefano (l), a friend of Habitat, and Fred Richardson
(r), chairman of the Louisa County Habitat for Humanity
steering committee, help Tracy Shiflett break ground on
the land where his new Habitat home will soon stand.
By Megan Smiley
The Central Virginian
Sept. 30, 2004
Theresa Smiths voice raises with excitement
when she talks about the wonderful opportunity her family has just
been given. It is, indeed, a dream come true for them, she said.
Because of Louisa County Habitat for Humanity, Smith, and her boyfriend,
Tracy Shiflett, will be able to raise their three small children,
Owen, Elijah and Whitney, in a nice house on three and a half acres
in the Green Springs community.
It will be the first time the young couple has ever lived in a real
house with their little ones. Currently, the clan is crammed into
a tiny mobile home at the Mineral Trailer Park.
I feel like there are people who might need it more than us,
but we do need it, Smith said. We live in a two-bedroom
trailer. Whitney stays in our room and the boys share the other.
the family will not have that issue. Their new home, located on
Valentine Mill Road, will be approximately 1,000 square-feet with
three bedrooms and one full bath, plus a huge backyard.
The best thing about it is the location, Smith said.
I almost cried the first time I saw it. It is a perfect place
to raise our kids.
Although construction on the structure will not begin until March,
a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the plot on Sun., Sept. 19.
Donated by Historic Green Springs Inc., the parcel is in a secluded
wooded area about two miles from Trevilians Elementary School, where
Smith and Shifletts kids will attend.
In order to qualify for the new Habitat home, the couple had to
meet several requirements, according to Estelle Rainsford, director
of the Louisa County chapter of the Charlottesville affiliate to
the Habitat for Humanity International.
For one, they had to have a combined income of less than $26,200
a year. In addition, Smith and Shiflett had to commit to performing
100 hours of community service on another Habitat project, and 200
hours on their own home.
We dont have a babysitter or anyone to watch our kids,
so we take turns, said Smith, who, with Shiflett, compiled
their 100 hours this spring working on Belinda Johnsons Habitat
home on South Street in the town of Louisa.
Another stipulation for receiving a Habitat home is that the couple
must be able to pay the mortgage each month.
Basically, Habitat pays for the house, and the family pays
Habitat back. There is no interest and a set payment each month,
Rainsford said. The term of their mortgage is based on their
income, so it could take anywhere from 15 to 33 years to pay off.
Though the house would normally cost over $100,000 to build, because
the labor is all performed by volunteers, the couple will only have
to pay about $60,000 for their new home.
Their mortgage payments go into the fund for humanity, and
it helps us build more houses, said Rainsford.
Churches, businesses and private donors also contribute a generous
amount to the organization each year.
We have a nice donor base in Louisa, though we need it to
grow in order to build two houses a year, Rainsford added.
Still, with so many good-hearted people in the community, Rainsford
is optimistic that the cause will spread.
Smith, for one, is now a big believer in the miracle of Habitat.
The process was easy. I want everyone to know that if you
need it, it is definitely worth a shot, she said. We
are so thankful for Estelle and the people at Habitat. It is hard
to give up your Saturday and volunteer to help someone else build
a home. They are not benefitting from it. They are just nice people
For Rainsford, members of Historic Green Springs Inc. and others
who have helped contribute to the new home, it has been a pleasure.
It is a great honor for [us] to be part of the important work
that Habitat for Humanity is doing in our community, said
Rae Ely, president of Historic Green Springs Inc. We think
this house will be a real addition to the neighborhood, and we are
very impressed with the young couple and their children. We were
glad to be able to make this donation.
Although Habitat typically builds simple and affordable houses,
the Shiflett/Smith home in Green Springs will feature some exterior
architectural details similar to surrounding homes.
think we could have asked for a better place, said Smith.
We are so excited, happy and thankful. This is a really good
thing for us. Its gonna be a new start, and knowing that you
have something so big to look forward to is exciting. It is important
to have your kids grow up some place that is special, and this really
Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 in Americus, Georgia, and
the Louisa County chapter was started the summer of 2001.
A Christian-based civic organization, Habitat recently achieved
the milestone of having built 175,000 homes worldwide.
For more information, contact Habitat at (434) 293-9066.
Habitats first Summer in the Garden
By M. Wynn Volz
The Central Virginian
June 24, 2004
Louisa County Habitat for Humanity held its first
Summer in the Garden benefit on Sat., June 19 at Earlyhouse on Yanceyville
Road in Louisa.
Seventy-five donors, volunteers and others interested in Habitats
mission, attended the outdoor event on the beautiful grounds of
Earlyhouse which is operated by Bruce and Kathy Stiles.
Attendees listened to the music of jazz vocalist Catherine Carraway
and guitarist George Turner of Charlottesville during dinner, and
enjoyed the offerings of Ginger Hill In-Home Cooking of Louisa and
the wines of Jefferson Vineyards of Albemarle County.
There was also a silent auction with many wonderful donated items.
The auction brought a total of $1,322.
Beth Ann Boone, the chairperson of this event was pleased with the
support of the community.
What a great success for our first event. I can only hope
that future events will be as enjoyable as this one. It was awesome
to volunteer for Habitat as you meet such a variety of people who
all come together to help others, said Boone.
Among the guests were former Del. V. Earl Dickinson and his wife,
Mary Lou, who are regular supporters of Habitat, as well as Martha
McIntire who said, We all thought it was a smashing event,
and I thought Earlyhouse was just the perfect setting.
Estelle Rainsford, chapter director, shared the same joy over the
event and the degree of participation.
It was just great to see people from different parts of the
county come together in the name of Habitat. We have something wonderful
This event was primarily a celebration of the accomplishments
of Louisa Habitats first three years. It was a wonderful venue
for getting our donors and volunteers together under one roof to
share in that celebration. It was especially pleasing that some
of the invitees brought guests and we look forward to those guests
future partnership with our mission, said Rainsford.
Many businesses and individuals contributed to the success of the
dinner and silent auction: Bruce and Kathy Stiles of Earlyhouse;
Ron and Ginger Ellis, Ginger Hill In-Home Cooking; jazz vocalist
Catherine Carraway and guitarist George Turner of Charlottesville;
The Central Virginian; Memories on Main; Lake Country Power; Glenn
BriggsFishing Lake Anna; Salon DeShano; Lemons Jewelry;
Southern States; Louisa Hardware; Louisa Junior Womens Club;
Tom Boone of Boones Forge; the P. Buckley Moss Foundation;
the Great Frame Up; JFullmer Designs; Vyvyan Powers; Raggedy Sues
Antiques; Lake Country Power and Sport; Billy Budd, photographer;
Penny Best, photographer; Jefferson Vineyards; Louisa Flower Shop;
John Grisham; and the Thodos family.
Committee members included Beth Ann Boone, chair, Jennifer Fullmer,
Estelle Rainsford, Kathy Stiles, Mary Thodos, Wynn Volz and Yvette
The committee met once a month to plan for the event and did the
coordination and set up on Friday and Saturday, returning on Sunday
to clean up.
Helping out on Saturday evening were future Habitat partners Katrina
Davis of Charlottesville and Theresa Smith of Mineral.
Louisa County Habitat began as a chapter of the Greater Charlottesville
Habitat for Humanity in 2001.
Since its inception, the Louisa Chapter has raised sufficient funds
to complete one home per year in the county with the generous help
of donations from Louisa County churches, businesses, individuals
and volunteers. Its future goal is to build two homes a year.
All funds raised for Louisa Habitat are restricted for the sole
use of building homes in Louisa County.
Skilled and unskilled volunteers are needed for the construction
of the third home which will begin shortly.
Individuals willing to lend their talents to site supervision on
two Saturdays per year, or lead a smaller crew on a Saturday, as
well as churches that are willing to send a work crew, should contact
Rainsford at (540) 967-0486 or e-mail esteller @cstone.net.
Committee members are also needed on church relations, fund raising,
communications, family selection, annual benefit, advisory board,
warehouse and special events. To volunteer, please call Rainsford
at the number above.
Contributions may be sent to Louisa County Habitat for Humanity,
P. O. Box 1179, Louisa, VA 23093.
A dream realized the Johnsons get
a new home
By Deana Meredith
The Central Virginian
May 27, 2004
Belinda Johnson had long dreamed of a home she could
call her own for herself and her two sons somewhere in the town
of Louisa, close to where she has worked for the past 19 years since
she cant drive because of her poor eyesight.
At the end of March, her ardent prayers were answered when she and Draone,
14, and Keyon, 18, packed up their belongings and moved from the two-bedroom
apartment they shared in the McDonald Street Apartments to their new
three bedroom house on South St.
Though the move wasnt far away, just down the street, really,
Johnson couldnt have been happier.
Lord, it is some kind of beautiful, she said. It is
like a dream home.
Johnson first learned about the Louisa County Habitat for Humanity nearly
two years ago from her cousin, Debbie Johnson, and saw the program as
a way to possibly attain her dream. She attended a meeting to learn
more about Habitat, then went through the application and qualification
There were several applicants hoping to be chosen for Louisa Habitats
second housing project, and Johnson said that the staff at Habitat didnt
make any promises. However, Johnsons desire for a yard for her
children and granddaughter to play in drove her to seek approval.
Every mother wants her own house for her children one day,
One afternoon, Johnson got a telephone call from Estelle Rainsford,
director of Louisa County Habitat for Humanity. Rainsford was calling
with good newsuttering the magic words, You got approval.
I was just so happy and that made my day, said Johnson.
I was excited.
Almost immediately, Johnson dove in and began acquiring the sweat equity
hours which all new Habitat home beneficiaries must contribute as part
of the agreement. She embraced the project, and by the time work began
on her own home, Johnson had more than met the sweat equity requirements.
Johnson and her sons helped build the first Louisa Habitat home awarded
to Sherry Wright in the Walnut Woods Subdivision, worked on the von
Hemert House next door to their own, and another on Red Hill Rd. in
western Louisa that was being built by the Greater Charlottesville Habitat
for Humanity, as well as their own house.
When Johnson first arrived on the Wrights home site, all she could
do was hand out nails to the volunteers and clean up trash.
Johnson gradually acquired the skills of the trade through hands-on
training, eventually helping to hang sheet rock, install siding and
trim, paint and frame a project.
I got to learn a lot of stuff that I didnt know how to do,
Although it was hard work, Johnson enjoyed the weekends she was off
from her housekeeping job at the Louisa Healthcare Center. She particularly
relished being with all of the volunteers and meeting different people
throughout construction of each of the projects.
It was really nice to see people working hard together, like a
team, she said. Everybody was so friendly to you.
The switch from apartment life to homeowner has been like a cathartic
to Johnson, who said that in the cramped living conditions of an apartment
community, there is always noise and people to contend with.
Over here its quiet, she said. People are friendly
and stay to themselves.
Although Keyon wasnt home when The Central Virginian interviewed
Johnson, Draone was quick to share his feelings about living in a new
house. In addition, being able to own pets nowhe has acquired
an iguana and a dogDraone likes the fact that he doesnt
have to share a room with his older brother anymore.
The 1,050-square-foot house contains two levels, necessary because of
the narrow steep slope of the lot. On the main floor are a large kitchen,
dining area, living room, master bedroom and bath, while the basement
area features two bedrooms and a laundry area.
I like that the boys are downstairs and Im upstairs,
she said. And I can do my own laundry at home. Thats exciting.
Habitat allowed Johnson to choose her own tile, carpet, kitchen cabinets
and other interior items. She has filled the house with furniture, photos
and other items which make a house a home, including sentimental family
Having control of her own property is another benefit of home ownership
that Johnson enjoys.
I like the whole environment, she said. I have peace.
The cost of owning a home is actually less expensive than paying rent
on an apartment, said Johnson, who is paying monthly on a 25-year mortgage
through Habitat. Even better, she agreed, is the fact that eventually
she will fully own the property.
Many people want to own their own home, said Johnson, as do some of
her friends at work.
All they [Habitat] can do is tell you yes or no. Theres
never a harm to trying, she said. I took a chance to see
if I could get it. It turned out for me. Look what Ive got.
Enthusiastic about the Habitat for Humanity program, Johnson said she
is willing to continue volunteering on other peoples houses in
Working for someone else to have a house for their kids, I dont
mind. I dont mind it, because somebody helped my family,
she said. The Lord blessed me with one [a home], and Id
love to see somebody else as happy.
von Hemert House sets
the pace for rural Virginia
Offers a transitional emergency shelter for community
By Deana Meredith
The Central Virginian
May 27, 2004
The Louisa County Habitat for Humanity, in partnership
with the Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation, dedicated two houses on
South St. in the town of Louisa on Sunday afternoon the von Hemert
House and the home of Belinda Johnson, the local chapters second
The projects were a result of a union between the two organizations,
which shared the costs associated with hiring a project manager to oversee
construction of Louisa Habitats second home and a transitional
emergency shelter to benefit families in need.
Believed to be the first of its kind in rural Virginia, the von Hemert
house offers families in need of a temporary place to live until permanent
arrangements can be made.
We had been thinking about this for years, said Howard Evergreen,
director of the Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation. We were ecstatic
to get this done.
With the assistance of area Habitat volunteers, the foundation built
the 884-square-foot house for about $60,000. The foundation already
had most of the cash it needed to purchase the building materials, and
completed the project without relying on grants or major fund raising.
We were able to do something that was very affordable and is very
needed, said Evergreen.
A stroke of good fortune made it possible for the two organizations
to find a property to serve a dual purpose. The South Street lots had
been vacant and for sale for many years, according to Evergreen, so
long, in fact, that the for sale signs had fallen down.
The woman who had inherited the property agreed to sell the parcels
to the foundation for a reasonable price, he said, and the foundation
sold half of the tract to Habitat for its second construction project,
offering an ideal location for its newest approved applicant.
The von Hemert House was built on approximately one-third of an acre,
and contains two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, laundry room and
bathroom on a quiet residential side street in town.
The transitional home is geared to those who may have lost their own
home to fire, or have been involved in an automobile accident and cant
navigate within their own homes.
Completely handicapped accessible, persons who are disabled by accidents,
surgery or age-related illnesses, can experience easy access and maneuverability
in the residence.
Those who take advantage of the benefit offered by the Housing Foundation,
though, must have a sponsor and a plan in place. Sponsors could include
a church, a member of the community, insurance agent, nurse or physical
Someone we can count on to help, said Evergreen. Were
not a social service agency. We want someone to help them meet their
Ideally, said Evergreen, someone who has been affected by unusual circumstances
could live in the von Hemert House for up to three months, while they
take strides to get back on their feet. If additional time is needed,
it is possible that their stay could be extended.
Its not just for people who dont have money,
said Evergreen. We want it to serve the community.
The rental fee charged by the foundation to live in the transitional
emergency shelter house is based on income, but no one will be turned
away if it is determined that they cant afford the fee, according
The Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation is hoping to build a similar
facility in Fluvanna County.
Thats next on our list. Were waiting for the stars
to line up so that we can, said Evergreen. Its not
fair that the city of Charlottesville is the only place [to have emergency
shelters]. People shouldnt have to leave their community.
Numerous supporters of the joint project were on hand to dedicate the
two houses, including foundation and Habitat staff, volunteers, local
religious leaders and community residents. Members of the late John
von Hemerts family, his wife, Toby, and son, Tom, also shared
in the ceremony.
Remarks for the von Hemert dedication were made by Sherry Hardwick Thomas,
rector of St. James Episcopal church, Ron Lauziere, president of the
Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation, Tom von Hemert, and Patty Driskill,
who shared her memories of the man for whom the transitional shelter
A former rector of St. James Episcopal, John von Hemert was a community-minded
person, said Driskill, and his savvy in dealing with business or financial
affairs gave many a dream impetus to grow from a plan to an active organization.
Wherever any of us met John, on the sidewalk, at the post office,
in a business, hospital or church, Johns greeting had such warmth
and energy that you had to think that his number one, first priority
for that day was well, out of all the entire population of Louisa County,
he most wanted to say hello to you, she said. That spirit
never wavered. It was a blessing of life you could count on.
His name didnt always appear at the top as the person in charge
of a project. Instead, von Hemert was typically listed at the bottom,
she said, where the seeds were planted and foundations forged.
John was a dreamer. His dreams were not the idle daydreams that
vaporize with the morning mist, said Driskill. Johns
dreams were rooted in reality, for he understood people and the needs
of this community.
According to Driskill, von Hemert knew how to design a project, how
he might best serve on the project and who could most successfully be
enticed, cajoled, coaxed, or plain wheedled into working with
Involved in many organizations during his lifetime, von Hemert was active
on the ground floor of the Louisa County Housing Foundation, JAUNT,
Medical Outreach Service, Santa Council, the Louisa Ministerial Association
and Food Pantry.
All of Johns community involvement was supported by his
personal generosity with time, talent and treasurequalities that
have been, and continue to be, mirrored by his devoted wife, Toby, and
their family, said Driskill. I join you in saying, Thanks
be to God for John, for these homes and for the addition they make to
During the dedication of the Johnson home remarks were made by Rev.
Frances Lewis; Jim Wolf, chairman of the LCHFH; Johnson; Virginia Gorski,
family advocate; Donna Stewart, project manager; and Fred Richardson
and Tom Rayburn, volunteers with Habitat.
The Project Managers Perspective
By Deana Meredith
The Central Virginian
May 27, 2004
When the Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation and Louisa
County Habitat for Humanity entered into a joint partnership, with plans
to build two homes side-by-side, they decided it was time to hire a
project manager to oversee the day-to-day operations and hired Donna
Stewart was recommended for the job by Mary Kranz, a local builder who
has been involved with Louisa Habitat since its formation. It was agreed
that Howard Evergreen, housing foundation director would serve as back-up
supervisor for the dual project.
She had been trying to get me involved with Habitat. On this house,
she really wanted to hire a construction manager, said Stewart,
one who has the bigger picture makes things go a lot smoother.
Then Howard came up with the idea of doing two houses together, which
made it more doable for both agencies, and myself.
Overcoming weather-related delays was one of the major hurdles which
Stewart and volunteers had to work through during construction.
The weather was very much of a challenge for us, said Stewart.
We had a lot of rain, and because the sites are so sloped, even
getting the lots cleared was delay after delay.
After obtaining the necessary permits from the county, work simultaneously
began on the foundations and basement walls of the von Hemert and Johnson
houses. However, it wasnt long before Hurricane Isabel roared
through Central Virginia, holding up progress more.
I have to say, being in it on a week-to-week basis, it seemed
we had lots of weather problems, recalled Stewart. Then
. . . from early September to early March we built two houses with [purely]
Everything fell into place once the construction process took off with
a vengeance. Just when Stewart began to feel unsure about how a certain
aspect of the project would commence, volunteers with the appropriate
job skills would show up and lend a hand through completion.
That kind of thing happened again and again, she said. It
really did feel like a lot of little miracles.
In retrospect, Stewart is surprised that everything came together so
well for both houses.
Its not a simple task to do an intensive project such as
this, especially in a rural area, she said. When I stop
and look back, it is a big Wow!
Working with Johnson was a pleasure, said Stewart, who describes the
newest beneficiary of a Louisa Habitat home as easygoing.
Shes a hard worker. Belinda had all her [sweat equity] hours
done before we started working on her house, said Stewart. I
was so happy to build a house for her and that she was getting it.
Stewart considers the von Hemert home a tremendous asset, offering shelter
for persons in Louisa County.
A home for Tracy Shifflett, Teresa Smith and their three children, located
on a four-acre parcel donated by Historic Green Springs Inc. in the
Trevilians Battlefield Station area, is Stewarts next project.
I just feel that Habitat is really good for the community,
said Stewart. Its a great way for people of all walks of
life to come together. Its doing a great service in an area where
affordable housing is crucial.
Editorial from The Central Virginian
May 27, 2004
Forging partnerships accomplishes so much, something
that was evident this past weekend at the dedication of both the John
von Hemert House and second Habitat for Humanity house in the town of
The Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation and Louisa County Habitat for
Humanity joined forces over a year ago. Leaning upon each other, the
two organizations have achieved admirable results.
On Sunday afternoon, in the humid afternoon sun, a crowd of supporters
stood on two straw-strewn lawns on South Street to celebrate the dedications.
The simple and functional Habitat house, built for the family of Belinda
Johnson, meets all of her needsfrom size and amenities, to proximity
to her employment. Since she doesnt drive, it was important for
her to be within walking distance.
Those involved in the Habitat project expressed mutual respect for Johnsons
willingness to work toward her dream. Even though she had already acquired
all the sweat equity hours required of her before crews
could begin constructing her own home, Johnson didnt quit. In
fact, she spent just as much time as she possibly could checking out
what was to become her new home.
One remarkable, determined young woman, she was able to realize her
dream and is graciously giving back to the community which gave her
a chance for a new home, just so that others can be as happy as she
The foundations surprise discovery of property for their own project
to build a transitional emergency shelter for community residents served
a dual purpose when it offered to sell a portion of the parcel to Habitat.
The von Hemert House is another success story, and puts Louisa County
on the map as possibly the first such emergency shelter in rural Virginia.
Now, the foundations director is hoping that Fluvanna County will
reap the same benefits.
It is truly fitting that a temporary shelter for those in need in Louisa
County should be named after John von Hemert. Those who knew him attest
to his kindness and his ability to get the job donewhatever it
Looking out for the people in the community was his number one mission.
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