DOVER - The sound of pounding hammers and upbeat chatter among working volunteers was easily audible in the southeast corner of Legislative Mall Tuesday, and something good was clearly going on as a sunny spring morning progressed.
Approximately 50 AmeriCorps members and Habitat for Humanity staff and volunteers were the source of the good deed - assembling the frame for a home that will help a single parent and her two children find stable footing after facing life's challenges and landing in substandard urban housing.
Dover Ariel Baynard, 31, was chosen from an initial pool of 26 candidates who were given applications by Habitat for Humanity in March to express interest in the program that helps provide housing for distressed families.
Habitat for Humanity is partnered with AmeriCorps, which has built and sold 40 Delaware homes with no-interest loans and bargain prices to families in need over the past 12 months. There were 21 recipients in New Castle County, 12 in Sussex County and seven in Kent County.
Receiving the most recent nod was Ms. Baynard, who was raising her 11-year- old daughter and 6-yearold son "In unsafe living conditions" in Dover, Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Jocelyn McBride said.
"She's always been a renter and is ready for home ownership," Ms. Mc-Bride said. "We're thrilled to provide that opportunity and will continue to assist her through every step of the process."
Ms. Baynard was taking it all in on Tuesday, putting her own hammer to work and dreaming of a new life that's soon to come. She is required to perform what's called "Sweat Equity" by spending 250 hours of time on helping build the home and take part in Habitat for Humanity functions. Up to 100 of the hours can be donated by friends and family.
"It's exciting and I take it as a blessing," said Ms. Baynard, a nurse's aide for Christiana Care's Visiting Nurses Association. "Not too many people get the opportunity to have a new home, or any home, especially in this economy."
After the volunteer construction crew assembled the frame Monday, it was transported by truck to the home site in Frederica. A groundbreaking is scheduled for May 19, and Dover Air Force Base personnel will take part in the ongoing construction project. Ms. Baynard will take a 25-year loan of approximately $110,000 on a property appraised at roughly $130,000 through construction cost savings, with zero interest that allows monthly payments of approximately $500 with taxes and insurance factored in. The mortgage is financed by Habitat for Humanity, which is targeting as many as seven Frederica properties in its ongoing neighborhood renovation program.
Habitat for Humanity officials said that approximately 7,600 families in New Castle County live in substandard housing, more than 4,000 in Sussex County and roughly 1,270 more in Kent County. That number will drop by one less when Ms. Baynard and her kids move in to the new residence and everyone is thankful for that.
"AmeriCorps members meet community needs on such a fundamental level that their work often changes the circumstances of the individuals they support," said Rita Landgraf, secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.
"In their work with Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorps members share their talents and energy aiding with home renovation and construction to make a difference in our neighborhoods."
AmeriCorps program director Nancy Green said Tuesday's Legislative Mall site was chosen because of the high traffic and spotlight nature of being located next to Delaware's Legislative Hall.
"Being here gives us the ability to draw attention to the tremendous issue of substandard housing in Delaware," Ms. Green said.
Staff writer Craig Anderson can be reached at 741-8296 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@DSNAnderson.