Cancer survivor Santana Eppinger will be the newest Mansfield resident to move into a Habitat for Humanity home next year.
"It means so much. I moved to Texas in 2014 just to get a new start," Eppinger said. "I survived cancer in 2012. It would never be possible for me to own a house."
The house at 326 Billingsley Drive will be the 15th that Trinity Habitat for Humanity has built in Mansfield. Fundraising is going on now through various churches and construction is expected to start in late February or early March, said Susan Luttrell, who sits on the board of directors for Trinity Habitat for Humanity. Eppinger expects to move in towards the end of 2018.
"We are already hard at work raising money but still need more," Luttrell said.
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The houses that have been built in Mansfield are valued at $109,000 to $182,000. Together, they have paid about $150,000 in property taxes over the years, Luttrell said. That’s significant because before Habitat for Humanity came in, all the lots were either vacant or had dilapidated houses on them that had to be torn down, so they were paying little or no taxes.
Organizers are already planning the 16th house that will be built in 2019. The City Council voted unanimously at its Dec. 11 meeting to sell the lot at 229 Cotton Drive to Habitat for Humanity for $1. Also, the city will waive building permit and impact fees for the home when it’s built, similar to what was done for other homes. The organization will pay the $4,480 cost to run sewer and water lines to the property.
Before the council members voted, they heard from several Habitat for Humanity organizers and some residents who currently live in Habitat for Humanity homes.
Kimberly Lawton said she used to be a nomad, moving from apartment to apartment for years. Everything changed when she moved into her home in 2010.
"I always had to move because of high rent," Lawton said as she addressed the council. "I can own a home. My son didn’t have to move around like I did. It really blessed me that my son had a stable home and we didn’t have to worry about high rent."
Frank Williams had a similar transformation as his special needs son thrived in a new environment, joining Special Olympics and the 4H Club in Mansfield. Before, they lived in a mobile home that he said was in bad condition and his son couldn’t go outside to play.
""Other kids were picking on him," Williams told the council. "Now, we’re friends with our neighbors. We get along and help each other out. It helps to increase the quality of the neighborhood where everybody is able to get along."
The stories resonated with the council, causing Mayor David Cook to choke up.
"On behalf of the city of Mansfield, I just want to say thank you for the difference you are all making," Cook said of the people who give financially and volunteer for the organization.
Councilman Darryl Haynes said seeing the people who actually live in these homes and the differences it makes in their lives helps it all come together.
"I hope that we can share this with the rest of our community and they can give you enough money to build five more," Haynes said.
Councilman Brent Newsom also thanked the organization and the community for helping to build affordable housing in Mansfield.
"It is something that is greatly needed and it’s awesome to see how this impacts families in a positive manner," Newsom said.
Luttrell said there’s a ripple effect in the community when a vacant lot becomes a home.
"It’s transforming for the family," Luttrell said. "Then you add in there that you have a homeowner who cares about their neighborhood. They all came out because they care about Mansfield. It has the ability to turn a whole community around."
Pastor Don Miller announced that he’s retiring from First Baptist Church and as fundraising coordinator for Trinity Habitat For Humanity. Since the program started in 2005, he estimates the group raised more than $875,000 to build the 15 houses.
"It has been a great project that brings the city of Mansfield together in a unique way," Miller said.
He said he’s going to pursue becoming a chaplain at a hospital.
Paul Cash will take over fundraising duties for Habitat for Humanity.
"Mansfield is a great place and you have generous, generous people," Cash said. "We want to be able to continue that success as we move forward."
Newsom thanked Miller for his dedication to the Habitat for Humanity cause.
"Pastor Miller, I just want to say how much he has meant to this program and these projects that have been completed throughout the years," Newsom said.
For more information or to donate toward Trinity Habitat for Humanity, call Paul Cash: 817-299-4367 .
Lidl on East Broad still needs more time
Lidl’s plans for a second store in Mansfield were tabled for a third time, this time until Jan. 8.
The German grocer wants to build a 36,000-square-foot store on the vacant lot between Mary Orr Intermediate School and Fire Station No. 3. Negotiations with the Mansfield school district to share the Mary Orr driveway dragged on for months but ultimately trustees wouldn’t budge. The plan now is to have two independent driveways on East Broad Street into the store parking lot.