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She waited 51 years for a house of her own

Jim Farr, current executive director of St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity hands a Bible and keys to Sara Zugschwert, the newest resident of Habitat for Humanity's Eco Village. The house is the first home Zugschwert has ever owned. (River Falls Journal photos by Gretta Stark)1 / 3
Sara Zugschwert kneels next to the imprint of her hands in her garage. She made the imprint while helping to pour the foundation of the house.2 / 3
Suzanne Meyer presents a Packers-themed quilt to Sara Zugschwert. The quilt is a housewarming gift to welcome Zugschwert to her new home in Habitat for Humanity's Eco Village from Martha's Quilters, a St. Bridget's Parish quilting group. Meyer is coordinator of Martha's Quilters.3 / 3

On Sunday, Aug. 4, the Rev. Gerald Harris told his congregation at St. Bridget Catholic Church the story of a young rich man, who was a self-made millionaire by age 29, but gave up his corporation and the chance to become richer in favor of helping others.

The man was Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity.

At the 9:30 a.m. mass, Harris was also able to announce that a member of the St. Bridget's parish was about to receive the keys to her house from Habitat for Humanity.

"I've waited 51 years for a house of my own," said new homeowner Sara Zugschwert, "and now I finally have a house of my own. And I can live here the rest of my life."

Zugschwert, applied for a home in the Eco Village in August 2011. After an interview in her home at the time, a rental house on Grove Street, Zugschwert got the call that her application has been approved.

"I started screaming and laughing and crying all at the same time," Zugschwert said. "I was just so overwhelmed."

Habitat for Humanity broke ground on Zugschwert's house in July 2012 and laid the foundation last September. She received the keys to her new home, in Habitat's Eco Village on Apollo Road, in a dedication ceremony last Wednesday.

So does Zugschwert thanked Habitat for Humanity and all volunteers and donors who helped build her house after the dedication.

"I would like to thank them personally for building me my first home. I'm very thankful to them and I'm very grateful to God for them," Zugschwert said. "Thank you is not good enough. What they did was earth shattering for me."

Zugschwert, who works full time in Abundant Life Christian Learning Center's baby room during the week and at ShopKo on weekends, said her inadequate income has prevented her from being able to own a house.

Habitat for Humanity gave Zugschwert a "hand up" with homeownership, but it isn't just a free house.

Zugschwert will pay a mortgage and utilities just like any other homeowner. However, Habitat has worked to help make those payments affordable for Zugschwert.

Instead of a down payment, Zugschwert put in what Habitat called "sweat equity," working with volunteers to help build her house, from pouring the cement to hanging drywall, spackling and painting walls. Habitat also worked to make Zugschwert's mortgage afordable for her.

All the houses in the EcoVillage are designed to be energy-efficient, which saves residents money on utilities, according to St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Jim Farr. Rooftop solar panels provide electricity and fill half of the house's hot water needs. The homes are also designed to be efficiently heated and cooled. 

The completion of Zugschwert's new home, a twin home, marks a milestone for the EcoVillage as well as for Zugschwert. Her first house is the last of the first six homes planned for the Eco Village project. Habitat plans to build a total of 18 homes in the Eco Village.

Zugschwert is now in the process of moving into her new house.

"I'm just so thankful to God for this opportunity to have a home," Zugschwert said. "I'm just really super excited about living in this home and the neighborhood."

Please see the July 15 print editon of the River Falls Journal for more.

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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