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New digs! What better gift?

St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Dave Engstrom (left) hands Linann Pearson (center) the keys to her new home, 162 S. Apollo Road, in Habitat’s Eco Village on the city’s west side not far from Westside Elementary School. She will share the home with her daughter Shauna Pearson (right).

Linann Pearson said this year she and her daughter, 17-year-old Shauna Pearson, are getting the best Christmas present they’ve ever had: A house in Habitat for Humanity’s Eco Village.

“We’re just so happy to be able to have such an awesome gift,” Pearson said. “Of course, it’s not free -- we’ll have a mortgage and everything just like everybody else, but it’s one that’s more affordable. It’s a dream come true.”

Pearson said she’s been her daughter’s sole caregiver pretty much from infancy on. While struggling to support her daughter, she’s also managed to get a degree from UW-River Falls and a medical assistant diploma from Chippewa Valley Technical College.

She now works at Southeast Medical Clinic in Cottage Grove, Minn. She works full-time, but said she still hasn’t been able to afford a permanent home.

“For any single parent, it’s kind of a struggle, trying to raise a kid and work and provide for them the best you can,” Pearson said “I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to continue with my school and get the degrees that I have that has enabled me to get where I am today.”

Pearson has been renting for years. She said she’s glad she has been able to afford a place she and her daughter can live, but a rented property is not the same as owning her own home.

She applied for a home in the Eco Village in summer 2012 at the urgings of her mother Yvonne Benson and her new neighbor Sara Zugschwert.

Pearson found out she would be getting a house last February.

“A year ago, if you would’ve told me that we were going to be the recipient of a Habitat House, I would’ve probably said yeah, right, that’ll never happen. But here we are a year later, and it’s a reality.”

Once Pearson found out she would be getting a home from Habitat, she started in on her “sweat equity” -- the physical labor she was required to put in. It is considered the down payment on her home. She began by working on other Habitat homes.

Pearson will also be required to pay monthly mortgage and utility bills. But Habitat’s energy-efficiency measures will keep utility bills down.

All houses in the Eco Village are designed to be energy-efficient.

The houses are sealed tightly to prevent air from escaping and well-insulated to keep temperatures steady. Solar panels produce electricity and heat half of the house’s hot water needs.

“It’s pretty awesome for the homeowners,” Pearson said, “because we’re going to have next to nothing for electricity bills. It’s just going to be a real blessing to all of us that live in those homes.”

For the complete story, please see the Dec. 19 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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