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Bishop Siegel Blesses Catholics For Habitat's 2018 Home

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel, right, blesses Donna F., left, and the Habitat home she recently moved into with four of her seven children. The Message photos by Megan Erbacher.

On a brisk, late-December afternoon, Donna F. closed her eyes and bowed her head as Bishop Joseph M. Siegel blessed her family’s new home.

Bishop Siegel prayed for Christ to enter the home and bless it with his presence. The bishop prayed for Christ to always be among Donna and her family, as well as with those who contributed to the home’s completion. He prayed for it to be a dwelling place of love.

The house, located in the 200 block of Grand Avenue, is Habitat for Humanity of Evansville’s 2018 Catholic Build. Donna’s home is just a block away from the final four Habitat homes of 2018 to bring the total to 500 homes built for the Evansville nonprofit.

On Dec. 19, 2018, the bishop gave thanks to all who made the house possible, and he congratulated Donna and her family on being able to celebrate Christmas in their new home.

Bishop Siegel then sprinkled holy water to bless the rooms of the house.

When he finished, Donna looked up and smiled. Her three youngest sons were grinning from ear-to-ear.

Donna is excited for the possibility of affordable homeownership. She has seven children, and the four youngest still live with her. Her kids are: Ariel, 23; Victoria, 22; Dion, 18; Thomas, 13; Thoma-la, 8; De’amonte, 6; and Thoma-lee, 5.

At the home’s blessing and dedication last month, Donna tearfully said: “Having some place to go is our home, having each other to love is family, having both is a blessing. I want to thank the Lord, my sponsors, all my family and friends, volunteers, all (Habitat) Core Crew members for making this possible for me and my family.”

Before they relocated, Donna and her four youngest kids lived in a cramped rental home full of mold, and the three youngest boys shared a room. She was eager to leave it to give her children a “safe and clean environment to grow up.”

“Owning my home will mean so much to me and my family,” she said. “The boys are excited to have a room that they can make their own.”

Habitat Evansville Executive Director Beth Folz described Donna as dedicated for the time she spent helping make her home a reality.

Founded in 1984, Habitat of Evansville builds affordable housing with families who purchase the home after volunteering 300 or more hours — known as “sweat equity” — on their house and other local builds. Habitat homeowners agree to attend homeowner workshops and engage in the Partner Family Advocate program.

Since she partnered with Habitat, Donna says her day-to-day routine has gotten busier adding homeownership classes and sweat equity into the mix.

“I’ve always really been on my own,” she said. “I’ve never had much of a family. It’s been rough, but I’ve survived it.”

Donna credits Tawanna Copeland, with Evansville Housing Authority, as the reason she applied for the Habitat program. When she learned she was selected, Donna said she got quiet.

“I was about to cry,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

For the last two years, Donna has worked as a driver for AutoZone, delivering parts.

The family enjoys barbecuing, playing in the park and playing board games together. Donna loves all sports, but basketball is her favorite, and she likes to work on vehicles.

Once they are settled into their new Habitat home, Donna hopes to take her kids on a vacation.

“Maybe we’ll go to Disney World or the beach,” she said. “I’ll have more financial freedom to do things once my children and I have a stable place to call home.”

Honoring longtime, faithful volunteer Del Welte

The 2018 Catholics for Habitat build was also dedicated on Dec. 19, 2018 in memory of Delbert “Del” Welte, who spent nearly 20 years as a Core Crew volunteer for Habitat. At the December blessing, Habitat Evansville Executive Director Beth Folz said everyone has “missed him terribly.”

Those in attendance at last month’s dedication were Thelma, Welte’s wife; some of his children and siblings; as well as members of the Knights of Columbus of Evansville.

Benedictine Sister Jane Michele McClure, Habitat Major Gifts Officer, said Welte may not have been a man of many words, but he was a doer. Sister Jane Michele met him when she joined Habitat 13 years ago, and she believes it’s safe to say he worked on, or was present, for every Catholic home build.

“When I think of the values of our Catholic faith – What do we bring,” she asked. “We show up. We come. We’re there. We are faithful and dedicated. That was Del. He personified the Catholic faith. … He was highly respected.”

In August, St. Benedict Cathedral parishioners signed 2 x 4’s in Welte’s memory. They are part of this year’s Catholic build.

A small plaque in his memory is forever part of the cement in the sidewalk in front of Donna’s home.

Habitat Evansville marks 500 homes

Of the more than 1,250 Habitat affiliates across the nation, only 25 have accomplished building 500 homes. Evansville's organization, which builds homes in Vanderburgh and Posey counties, became the 26th to accomplish that feat in late 2018.

The final four Habitat houses to make a total of 500 were dedicated on Dec. 20, 2018. Those homes are all located on Bedford Avenue in Evansville.