Colleen McCarvill beams as she shows off her lazy Susan. The cupboard feature, common and often ignored in most homes, is the one thing she is most excited to have in her new home.
That, and the fact she finally has her own bedroom. Soon, and for the first time, McCarvill and her three young children will have a home of their own, complete with backyard, four bedrooms, bathroom, living room, eat-in kitchen and, yes, that all-important lazy Susan.
“It’s almost a feeling of accomplishment, knowing that I am doing this, that I am helping build my own house,” said McCarvill, while taking a break at the build site.
On July 27, she’ll get the keys to the new, one-storey bungalow, a house that wouldn’t be if not for Habitat for Humanity.
McCarvill and fiancé, Justin Hunter, had always dreamed of owning their own home, a place to raise their son, Wil, and McCarvill’s older children, Emma and Morgan.
That dream was replaced by stark reality, with Justin’s death in a tragic accident on Jan. 2, 2013.
It’s been hard. McCarvill works full-time and is now raising Wil, 21-months-old, eight-year-old Emma and 10-year-old Morgan, on her own.
“Everybody asks me, how I do it?” she said. “It’s the kids that keep me going and it is pretty much because of them that I haven’t broken down.”
The community of Kinkora rallied around the family after Justin’s death. And that same community has rallied to help realize the couple’s dream
Patricia McKenna first approached McCarvill’s mother with the idea of applying for a Habitat home, asking her to attend a Habitat meeting.
“When Justin died I just had the thought that this would be good for Colleen,” said McKenna. “I knew on her own she probably wouldn’t be able to get a house. It’s hard enough to get a home with two people.”
McCarvill soon filled out the necessary paperwork.
Then, on Dec. 31, 2013, on the dawn of the new year, the call came.
“Jan. 2 would have been Justin’s anniversary. They knew before but they wanted to wait until the right time to call me,” recalled McCarvill. “They said ‘we thought you might want to start the new year off with a bang’.”
She was shocked by the news.
“I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.”
And, of course, there were tears of joy.
“I said to the kids, ‘the house is a new start. It’s a new beginning for us.’”
McKenna added, it was what she needed to get through that anniversary.
It didn’t take long for a committee, headed by McKenna, to come together to help Habitat for Humanity P.E.I. plan the build.
The community donated the land.
“It is crazy how fast it all was,” said McCarvill. “It is very overwhelming. The support from the community is just beyond. It is just amazing, the stuff that these people have done and the donations.
“It is a perfect community, a great community.”
They broke ground in mid-June.
Then came wall-raising day on June 21. More than 70 people showed up to help.
“By the end of the day all the walls were up, the trusses, the roof and all the doors were in,” recalled McCarvill.
“It was amazing,” said McKenna. “It was almost like a carnival. Everybody was so happy. It was such a sense of community and fellowship. We were all here for a common cause and because we wanted to be here.”
Help throughout the build has come from all over P.E.I. and beyond.
Community and church groups, businesses and individuals have donated food, materials and their time to the project. Seniors in the community have stopped by to wash down walls, help prepare snacks and serve meals.
“The response from the community has been phenomenal. The joke is you get fed every two hours here,” said McKenna. “There are very few people who come just to work one day. They always want to come back, whether it was to do the food or work on the house. It just feels good to do it.”
Even local children got into the spirit.
Lilla Johnston, Mia Grace Payne and Meghan MacDonnell made bracelets, selling them at Somerset Elementary, where Emma and Morgan go and Colleen works, to help the effort.
The youngsters raised more than $40.
“We just wanted to help,” said Meghan.
Now, just weeks after ground was broke, the home is days away from being finished.
On this particular day, as dark clouds loom, ready to open up with downpour of rain, there’s only one tradesman on site working on the interior.
McCarvill proudly gives a tour, showing every nook and cranny of the home, explaining the plans for each bedroom and, lastly, stopping in what will be her bedroom, her sanctuary. Right now, she shares her room with Wil.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” she said, a huge smile on her face. “It’s just the little things like going to bed at night and reading a book before going to sleep. The simple things.”
The home, to some, may seem modest but to McCarvill it palatial, far bigger than the cramped apartment she and her four children now share.
The room with the biggest closest is reserved for Emma, who loves princesses and would like to see pink and purple on the walls.
The boys’ rooms are adjacent to each other. Morgan’s room will be green and blue.
“It has been very humbling,” admitted McCarvill. “It’s amazing what people will do.”
On July 27, the home will officially become hers.
A special ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at the site where the keys will be handed over to McCarvill and her children.
A FEW FACTS
— Habitat for Humanity P.E.I. was founded in 1996 with the first home built in ‘99.
— To date, the organization has provided 44 Island families with safe, decent, affordable housing.
— Habitat for Humanity P.E.I. is one of 69 Canadian affiliates and is a member of Habitat for Humanity Canada.
— Thanks to Habitat for Humanity’s help, a family somewhere in the world improves its housing situation every seven minutes.
— Kinkora’s build committee includes Fr. Doug MacDonald, Patricia McKenna, Bruce Campbell, Andrew McCardle and Colleen’s sister, Leslie Cousin.
— For more information, to apply or volunteer, visit habitatpei.ca.