Fox Valley Farms is Delivering on a Clear Message

By Stew Cohen

Travel the main roads of McHenry County and you’ll find life’s important messages. In Huntley, along Route 47 and Del Webb Boulevard, you’ll pass Sun City and the message promoting an active and healthy lifestyle for today’s 55 and better. In Woodstock, drive around the downtown square and take in the visual message of a past worth preserving.

A very emotional message this summer hits thousands of motorists driving by a site in Crystal Lake. The message is that the American Dream of a decent and affordable place to live is still within the grasp of working people. This is a big part of the mission of Habitat for Humanity and its volunteer army that has built homes not only in McHenry County but across the United States. Millions of people that might not otherwise own a home are living in quality housing and they had a hand in building.

The latest build of nine homes at $1.8 million dollars is the largest undertaking of Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley. Executive Director Barbara Beckman welcomed a group with the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce on the site off of McHenry Avenue to see the progress at Fox Valley Farms. Beckman told members of the Chamber that it took a long time to get to today.

“To see three of the houses up under roof is super exciting to us. It’ll take another six months to get these finished, then they will be sold to the families, zero interest loans, fair market value,” she said.

Habitat for Humanity subdivisions are not uncommon across the country but in northern Illinois, Beckman pointed to only one other, a five home build in Elgin a few years ago. Habitat indicates that low property taxes in Elgin and Carpentersville make sites affordable for their partner families.

Kim McIver, development manager for Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley, said 68 homes were built in Elgin, 41 in Carpentersville, and 1 apiece in Algonquin and Lake-in-the-Hills along with a number of other towns in the Fox Valley.

All nine of the houses at the Crystal Lake build have numbers attached to signs just behind the chain link fence off of McHenry Avenue where construction will continue for several more years. Waiting in one of the houses was Tracey, Habitat’s new Fox Valley Farms resident. She and two of her three daughters were in what will become the living room to greet members of the Crystal Lake Chamber as they sought to get a first-hand look at the progress.

“I think it’s amazing that a lot of people give up their free time and come build,” she said.

Tracey herself has 200 more hours of work on the house. She helped the chamber group imagine what parts of her home will look like with the walls up and said, “over to the right of me will be a master bedroom, a front room, and a kitchen.” These scenes of joy and emotion will repeat as more homes at Fox Valley Farms are finished over the next few years, culminating with blessings and dedication ceremonies.

The reality is that Habitat in the Fox Valley is running out of affordable places to build. Rising costs of construction and home values have gone up. David Leali, a Habitat board member, is very aware the upfront expenses are more than people may realize.

“Most people think it’s dig a hole, put in a house, dig another hole, put in a house,” he said.

Leali and Beckman encouraged involvement in a fundraising event on October 11 and 12.

“For the 24-hour buildathon in October, we’re going to be drywalling two of the homes continuously in four hour shifts at Fox Valley Farms,” she said. Each volunteer will need to raise at least $250 dollars to come out and participate.

For Tracey, having a place to call home is a dream come true.

“It’s a pure miracle, we’ve very blessed,” she said.

You may very well see her someday as you drive on McHenry Avenue. The message she’ll convey will be a clear one. You’ll know once you see her sitting on a swing on her oversized front porch talking to other residents of Fox Valley Farms.