A new home for LaVonda and Abigail Buford
JOLIET (November 9, 2022) – On Nov. 4, Will County Habitat for Humanity hosted a build-site program launch in Joliet as a part of its Veterans Build 2022 program.
Special guest Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Terry Prince said in a press release of the program, “A suitable home is the foundation for the well-being of a veteran and their family, especially given their service to defending our nation’s freedom.”
“A suitable home is the foundation for the well-being of a veteran and their family, especially given their service to defending our nation’s freedom,” said, one of the Habitat program’s featured speakers.
Habitat for Humanity’s Veterans Build program helps military-connected families with affordable housing, home repairs, volunteer opportunities, as well as the educational services to help prepare them with the financial tools they need for successful home ownership. Since starting the program in 2013, over 6,600 veterans and their families across the U.S. have partnered with Habitat to access the benefits of affordable housing.
The Veterans Build Program, an arm of Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit provider for affordable housing, began in 2013 nationally and has been a part of the Will County Habitat for Humanity since 2019, with the newest recipient, LaVonda Buford, being the third veteran housed in the county.
This year, a 2001 to 2003 Army Veteran, LaVonda Buford and her daughter Abigail will be the recipients of a new Habitat home located in Joliet. Buford joined the Army right out of high school to serve her country, and find her path and career. While in the military, she married and had a child. When she came off of maternity leave, she and her husband were to be deployed, so Buford made the tough decision to leave and was honorably discharged.
“I ask myself most days if I made the right decision. God does what He wants to do, this is the life I’m supposed to have,” Buford said.
Buford and her daughter currently live in Hope Manor in Joliet, a housing complex for veterans and it was at a resource table at the manor where she saw information about the Habitat for Humanity Veterans Build Program and decided to apply.
“It was around the time of Covid so I was not working full time, and did not have enough for a mortgage,” Buford said of her first application process. “But once I had a full-time job, I applied for a mortgage and had qualifying credit.”
Will County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Nicole Murray said home recipients must have the ability to pay for the mortgage as it’s a hand up, not a hand out; must qualify as being a need-paying more than 30 percent of income for rent, crowded, unsafe or unhealthy conditions; willingness to partner with sweat equity hours.
Buford has worked at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, volunteered in the community and on other Habitat projects so far, once her home begins to build, she will work on her home as well.
“We are getting the families out there and be invested-a part of it, with that comes more ownership and gratitude,” Murray said.
Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity Veteran Engagement Specialist Leslie Rodriguez said the sweat equity component can be important to a veteran.
“Especially veterans have a hard time asking for help, the sweat equity feels like a hand up instead of a handout,” Rodriguez said.
After Buford was accepted for the home, the Habitat team needed to fundraise for this project. To date around $210,000 has been raised toward the home cost. The Home Depot Foundation remains the lead sponsor of the area builds along with various veteran and corporate sponsors.
In addition, Jamie Albert of Will County Brewing fwas for a veteran and connected Will County Habitat with breweries and Bridget Albert made bourbon connections which led to the creation of the promotion the House Beer & Bourbon Built. Will County Habitat for Humanity visited sponsor breweries and introduced the mission of the veteran build, the fundraiser was the Will County Beer and Bourbon Fest held May 21 at Hollywood Casino in Joliet, and breweries, bourbon distilleries, the Joliet Bourbon Club and sponsors have been scheduled to construct the home. All involved will share the moment as LaVonda receives the keys to her new home.
The build will take approximately a year and Buford said she can choose the siding, flooring, paint colors, her daughter wants a pink room, and other features as the build progresses. She said she’s grateful for this next step.
“I think this is an amazing opportunity, I live in a community built for veterans, which was a stepping stone. Finding Habitat was the next step in my veteran life-I may not have ever had the ability to own a home,” Buford said.
She wants to give back and also help fellow veterans. “I’m trying to get other veterans involved, recruit neighbors to volunteer and apply (for a home), someday I want to be able to work on their home.”
For more information visit chicagolandhabitat.org.