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Habitat Home Recipient Announced

By Helen Capellaro

When a friend suggested that Greg Grunewald apply for the New Glarus Habitat Home, he said, "nothing like that ever happens to me." But, he filled out the application anyway, believing he may have missed the deadline.

It turned out he was the first to apply and, after careful consideration of all the applicants, the selection committee chose his family to receive the first New Glarus Habitat House. Green County's Habitat for Humanity has built 22 homes, but this is a first for New Glarus.

Grunewald is raising four children as a single dad in New Glarus. The children, ranging from 12 to four years old, are the focus of his life in addition to holding a full-time job at Jack Links for the past three years.

Although he has always wished to own a home, it didn't seem possible with the expenses of raising the kids on his own. Currently, the family rents a unit on the fourth floor of the old New Glarus grade school. He says it is a nice place, but rather crowded. Some earlier rentals didn't work out too well as rambunctious kids are not everybody's forte.

The four children are firmly established in the New Glarus school and daycare systems.

Grunewald's job at Jack Links gets him to work early and, after a full work day, he picks up the youngest at daycare, does laundry (lots of it, he states) cooks and meets with teachers, all the usual parental responsibilities.

Grunewald said he is especially happy that the new house will have a yard the kids can play in and can have bikes, something not convenient in a fourth-floor apartment. When asked if he has any hobbies or if he participates in any sports, he laughed and said, "With four kids...?" He added wistfully, "I do like to work on cars..."

Greg came to New Glarus four years ago in tough circumstances. His marriage had disintegrated, and he was virtually homeless with a nine-old daughter in tow. He had to take advantage of the help the community offered, including the Family Promise agency that offered them a place to stay for several months. He remembers getting a blessed surprise one Christmas when the Shepherd of the Hills church members gave him a gift basket that included $350 cash they'd raised. He decided to make the community his home.

Earlier last week, Greg had only told his oldest child about the new house. He thought the younger ones would become impatient to move in. But he drove the kids past the site and took a few photographs of the old home that was being demolished this past week. "They thought it is just a house going down." Now, they will be watching and helping with their new house going up.

Habitat homes are not freebies. They are sensible labors of love of friends and neighbors for families who can demonstrate they are trying to better themselves. The recipient gets the house at a somewhat reduced price because the loan on the house is interest-free and considerable volunteer labor is used in its construction. But the assessment is the assessment, and the taxes are levied at the same level as any new home construction. Habitat finances the construction and holds the mortgage.

By early next year, the Grunewald family should be able to move into their new home. Greg Grunewald is responsible for the taxes, of course, and repaying Habitat for the property and all the usual expenses homeowners have. Meanwhile, he is anticipating a place where he can put down deep roots and raise his children in a community that has opened its arms to him and his family