When Shawn and Millie Chrislip's apartment burned down two years ago they lost everything.
And it was not the first time this young couple struggled with adversity. In 2002 their two children, Dustin and Taneah, now ages 6 and 4, became very ill and were hospitalized with lead poisoning believed to come from eating lead-based paint that was chipping off the walls of an apartment they were renting.
Millie had moved often throughout her childhood and dreamed of some day owning a home for her children. That lifelong dream became a reality Jan. 14 for her and her family as Habitat for Humanity and Thrivent Financial dedicated a home to the Norwalk family on 6 Fuller Drive on the north side of town.
More than 50 friends, neighbors, and volunteers met in the couple's new home for a ceremony called "Building on a Dream, Celebrating the Legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." The date was chosen in respect to Dr. King who dreamed that one day all children would have a decent home.
The Rev. Amy Little of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Monreoville led the scripture reading and spoke of Dr. King's ideals of the Christian principles of love and the beloved community. "Christ calls us into action into the world. What we did for the Chrislip family we also did for Christ."
"The Chrislips are a perfect example of why our organization is so important," said Brenda Berkey, Habitat volunteer and mentor for the Chrislip family. "Shawn and Millie were down on their luck and had nowhere to turn. They just needed a break. Someone to help them when times were rough."
Millie first learned about Habitat from the Erie County Community Action Center. Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit Christian-based organization whose mission is to eliminate poverty housing. Habitat for Humanity has built more than 200,000 homes and provided shelter for more than one million people worldwide.
The Chrislips partnered with Habitat for Humanity in July 2005 and have put in more than 500 hours of the required "sweat equity" which involves working on their home and other Habitat homes. When completed, the homes are purchased by the partner family with no profit mortgages. Payments are then used to help build more homes.
Financial assistance also comes from various organizations, private donors, and Christian institutions. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has partnered with Habitat since 1991, donating more than $25 million to Habitat worldwide and their members have volunteered more than 1.3 million hours on more than 500 building projects.
Thrivent Financial donated more than 70 percent of the building cost for the Chrislip home. The remaining 30 percent came from local Thrivent Chapters and Firelands HFH. A fundraiser organized by the local Lutheran churches helped the Chrislips.
The fundraiser was called "Angels in the Rafters." The Sunday school classes at several area Lutheran churches cut out paper angels. The congregation members could buy them for $1 and write a special message to the Chrislip family. During construction Habitat and Thrivent volunteers attached them to the supports throughout the home before the drywall was hung so that angels will always be looking over the Chrislip family.
"We dream but never think we're going to achieve that dream we want" said William Kraus, long time HFH volunteer and former music director of Sandusky High School.