Martha Salas had always dreamed of having a home of her own. With the help of the Emporia Area Habitat for Humanity, that dream is now a reality.

The organization welcomed and dedicated its newest house to the Salas family Friday afternoon on the 700 block of Cottonwood Street.

The Emporia Area Habitat for Humanity helps families and individuals achieve strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. The overall goal is to help families have a safe place to call home. HFH sells homes to partnered families at 0% interest mortgage.

HFH has an application process and three criteria for potential homeowners: need for housing, ability to pay and willingness to partner. To partner, applicants must give 300 service hours towards a home. To date, they have built over 25 homes in the past 30 years.

“If I recall correctly, their situation was [that] their utilities were sky high. They did not own a home, they were renting,” said HFH Board of Directors Vice President Clint Shown. “So, this is a whole life change for them which is the really cool part about what we do.”

When the opportunity arrived to Salas, she said she worked really hard. Salas, her two kids, Martha and Jesus, and her family put in more than 360 service hours. They helped with the framing and trim of her new house.

“They even brought breakfast several days for everybody, which was fantastic,” said Executive Director Eric Kirby with a laugh.

Salas received a child’s bible and a student study bible from Life Church, a handmade quilt that represented the pieces and people that came together to build the house and $100 to purchase groceries from Country Mart. Prayers were said as a local pastor blessed the house before Salas cut the red ribbon over her door.

“We like to dedicate the home to the family. It is just a formal ‘you are now buying a home for you and your family’ which maybe they couldn’t afford, maybe they didn’t think it was possible,” Shown said. “That is really all it is — dedicating to them the fact they have their own home now — we do have a pastor come out and he blesses the home.”

Salas thanked God and HFH for this opportunity. She said she was ready to move in and start her new life in her affordable home with her family.

Kirby presented Salas with the keys to her new house and scissors to cut the ribbon. Attendees clapped and cheered for her and all of the hard work that was put in. Normally, the dedication of a new house is treated as an open house. Contractors and the community are invited to come in and see what they were donating to.

She picked out her wall color, floor color, cabinets and countertops. Her new home has three bedrooms, one bath, a laundry room and an attached garage. Kirby attributed that this was the first house done with a vaulted ceiling plan and garage.

However, only contractors were invited and there was no open house due to the ongoing novel coronavirus.

“Cottonwood Street took far longer, mainly because of COVID,” Shown said. “We shut down all operations for a little while.”

HFH’s goal is to build two houses a year, but COVID has slowed that process down this year. The house on Mechanic Street is almost complete, Shown said.

“We are not going to start any builds right now because material prices are so high,” he said.

They are going to do fundraising in the meantime.

Kirby and Shown are thankful for the contractors and sponsors of the house: Trusler Foundation, Coffman Construction, Grimmett Construction, Mark II Lumber, Burnap Bro’s Plumbing, Modern Air, AC’s Electric, Moore Roofing, MRSK, Double D Mowing, Atchison Drywall and the City of Emporia.

Habitat for Humanity has a new office downtown on 1117 Commercial St. There are no set hours, but Shown anticipates there will be a set schedule by the end of the month. There are board member positions open as well as volunteer opportunities.

Shown expressed that they always need homeowner applications. Visit their website at emporiaareahabitat.org or text Shown at 620-794-0550.

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