Local Family Welcomed Home to Kittanning

Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Michael McElhaney (right) hands over the keys of 510 North Water Street to Lora Longcor – who hasn’t owned a home since moving to Kittanning four years ago – during a home dedication Tuesday.

By Jonathan Weaver

Lora Longcor has had several different addresses in the past four years, but she now has a home.

With colored balloons tied along the front porch, Armstrong Habitat for Humanity officials celebrated with Loncor at her new house – a former project house – at 510 North Water Street yesterday.

“When we moved to Kittanning in 2010, I loved it,” Longcor said. “I just asked God ‘I don’t want to move anymore – can we be home now?’

Habitat Director Mike McElhaney said Longcor’s new house was a Habitat for Humanity build several years ago and the previous owner lived in it for 12 years – until moving without paying off the mortgage, causing the house ownership to revert back to Habitat for Humanity.

Loncor moved in about a month later in May 2013 and work began to restore it.

Board Manager Bob Zwier said volunteers worked off-and-on working on new floors, carpeting and front railings in the two-story house that summer until September.

“It’s a constant work-in-progress,” Zwier said. “It was a house, but (Longcor) made it into a home – which is a big step.”

Board Secretary Clyde Moore of Pine Township volunteered to be part of the clean-up crew and remembered what the house was like a year ago.

“It was left in pretty-bad condition when (the former owners) left,” Moore said. “The backyard was mess. There was several garbage bags left.”

Board Member Melissa Flanders of Ford City led the Family Selection and Nurturing committee to make sure Longcor qualified for assistance – and that Longcor committed to the program.

“They’re committed to this because they have to put in 340 hours of labor so we’re not giving the house away – we’re just giving you a helping hand up, not a hand out. And that’s what our mission statement is,” Flanders said. “The nurturing part is keeping in contact down the road and making sure everything is going OK. Years down the road, we still talk to them and help them if they need it.”

Due to a disability, Longcor could not provide labor and instead devoted the 340 hours in the Habitat office, squeezing lemons at the Armstrong Folk Festival, and volunteering at the HAVIN 2nd Chance Shop on Market Street, to name a few.

McElhaney said there is also a mortgage requirement to fulfill, which includes the cost of the house and the cost of materials without volunteer labor to help increase the homeowner’s equity.

“It’s the cost of materials and direct costs if we purchase anything – and then we go to what the homeowner can afford – no more than 30 percent of their income,” McElhaney said. “If someone can afford $380,000 per year, maybe they’ll have an 18-year mortgage or a 30-year mortgage, but it can’t be more than 30 percent of their income at zero percent (interest) – that’s what helps really keep (the cost) down.”

Only a few people in Habitat for Humanity know Longcor’s financial and background information.

Past Board President Clem Rosenberger led the dedication of the house with the reading of Bible verses in the Books of Deuteronomy, Psalms and Isaiah before giving the Holy Bible to Longcor.

Each board member and guest present at the dedication signed the Bible.

Longcor thanked those dozen board members that came to the dedication and toured her house.

“It doesn’t happen that fast, but God said ‘It’s time to go home,’ Longcor said. “I’ve had nothing but blessings from this. I just want to say ‘Thank you’ to everyone that was involved.”

Longcor’s best friend, Sally Heymers, did not help restore the house, but made Longcor feel welcome to Kittanning from the time she moved into the neighborhood in 2010 by donating Thanksgiving dinner.

“I always have more than I need, so I just brought her food,” Heymers said. “When (Longcor) said Habitat had a house for her, she was on Cloud Nine. This is a home.”

Both are members of Harvest Community Church in East Franklin Township.

“You can’t help but love this woman once you get to know her,” Longcor said.

Besides eventually hoping to go back to work – perhaps with mental health patients -, Longcor also wants to become more involved in the community.

“I’ve been praying for a long time for God to show me how to help other people if I can. I like to be involved in the community within more small groups – maybe a support group, maybe a Bible Study, maybe a music group,” Longcor said. “Something uplifting.”

Longcor’s 15-year-old daughter, Siobhan (pronounced Shiv-on) Cannon looks forward to painting her room blue and white for the first time, as well as enrolling as a freshman at Kittanning Senior High, since the family always rented before.

“We’ve both moved around our whole lives, so every place I lived in was a question of ‘When are we going to have to find a new place?’ Something always goes wrong.

(But) I think this definitely fits the definition of a home,” Cannon said.