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Cheronne’s new habitat

Employees in Edmonton rally to help one of our own achieve her dream of buying her own home


Six years ago, project administrator Cheronne Labelle brought her two young boys to Edmonton, Alberta. This single mom couldn’t afford to buy a house, so she moved her family from rental property to rental property, most recently taking up residence in an older house in Mayfield, a neighborhood outside the city’s center. Insulation was poor, winters were cold. And the family shared hot water with the tenants downstairs.

Through the years, Cheronne kept asking herself the same question: could she ever buy her family a home of their own? After all, she had a good job at Stantec and worked hard. But raising kids was expensive, money was scarce, and the banks said a mortgage wasn’t within her finances.

Drawing the plans
Knowing Cheronne’s situation, Crystal Feist, her supervisor at the time, suggested that she look into Habitat for Humanity as a resource. “That never dawned on me,” says Cheronne. “Like many, I thought Habitat for Humanity was a shelter program, but it’s not. Those working at Habitat for Humanity are creating affordable housing for hardworking families like mine.”

After doing some research, Cheronne learned that Habitat selects families after an extensive application process that involves deep financial reviews, reference checks, and several interviews with both her and her family. Why? The organization offers deserving families interest-free mortgages with payments that never exceed 25% of the household’s income. Selected families work a minimum of 500 hours, called “sweat equity,” to build homes for other families in the Habitat network. Cheronne explains: “What they offer isn’t a handout, but a hand up, and that’s all I was seeking.”

Placing a bid
Cheronne applied to the Habitat program with the support of her family, friends, and Stantec colleagues, including Crystal; accounts payable supervisor, Kate Bath; and Keith Shillington (Canada Prairies geographic leader and Alberta North regional leader). After the three-month application process, Cheronne and her family were accepted into the program on June 27, 2013, three days before her birthday.

“I was at my desk when I received word that we’d been accepted. What an amazing birthday present!,” says Cheronne. “I ran right into Keith’s office to tell him first. He gave me a great big hug.”

Swinging Stantec hammers
With the application behind her, the real work lay ahead for Cheronne. To maintain eligibility for her home, she needed to accrue 500 sweat equity hours on local Habitat construction sites. Five hundred hours equals 67 days working from 8:00 to 4:00. Tuesdays to Saturdays were Habitat build days; however, since she worked full time, Saturdays were Cheronne’s only option.

Single parents in the Habitat program can have volunteers assist with up to 250 hours once they’ve worked 100 hours themselves. Fortunately for Cheronne, she could and did rely on her community.

While working these initial hours, Cheronne learned construction tasks like how to use circular saws and air nail guns to install insulation, baseboards, and window frames. While in the process of reaching the 100-hour milestone, in December 2013, she reached out to her Edmonton colleagues who’d volunteered at Habitat during Stantec in the Community Day. Many jumped at the opportunity to help her, forming three separate volunteer teams to work on Habitat construction sites. They generated the 250 volunteer hours Cheronne needed, plus 36 additional hours, which they donated to another single mother in the Habitat program. In June, Cheronne finished her remaining 50 hours to meet the requirements.

In spring or summer 2015, Cheronne and her two boys will have their own two-story, three-bedroom townhome in Edmonton. Touched by the Habitat program, Cheronne hopes to help mobilize future volunteer groups at Stantec to get involved with the organization. “My boys are so excited about never having to move again. We chose our new home, a place where we can put pictures on the walls without concern,” she says. “Having people support my family and me was both humbling and wonderful. I’m so incredibly grateful.

Cheronne in front of her future home

Having people support my family and me was both humbling and wonderful. I’m so incredibly grateful

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