Sylvania family realizes dream of home ownership thanks to Habitat for Humanity

On Nov. 15, Casey Lehto and her children, Cyril and Aida, saw their prayers answered and their dream of homeownership was realized when they received the keys to 5939 Artwell Dr.
The home, built in the 1970s was donated to Habitat for Humanity thanks to the generosity of the homeowner, 95-year old WWII Navy veteran Les Johnson, following his death and that of his children Jane Johnson Gibson and Jim Johnson, who both live out of state.

Ellen Bowers and the Rev. Dr. Vern Swett of Sylvania United Church of Christ, left, Rev. Melissa Micham of Olivet Lutheran Church, and Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Michael McIntyre look on as Cyril, Casey and Aida Lehto receive the keys to their new home from Beth Emery.

In addition to receiving the keys from Les Johnson’s niece and nearby neighbor Beth Emery during the dedication ceremony, the Lehto family were given gifts from several support partners. The Rev. Melissa Micham, the pastor of Olivet Lutheran Church, presented a Bible to the family; Carol Ann Woidke of the Needle Arts Guild, donated a home sampler; Heidi Glosser, a family support partner, gave a birdhouse and a Thanksgiving gift certificate; and Ellen Bowers of Sylvania United Church of Christ made quilts for each of the Lehtos. The Rev. Dr. Vern Swett, the pastor of Sylvania United Church of Christ, offered the dedication prayer at the ceremony.
The road leading to this dream house began several years ago. Lehto was in an untenable situation. Her divorce decree mandated she live in Sylvania in order to maintain custody of her two children. She would forfeit custody if she were to move outside of the city, but based on her income she was only able to rent a small, two-bedroom home.
“My children are approaching teen years, and we really needed a larger home so my daughter and son could each have his and her own bedrooms,” she said.
Lehto saw her first glimmer of hope when she applied for homeownership through Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity two years ago. “But, I was told that finding a home in Sylvania would be nearly impossible and could take some time,” she remembered. “While that glimmer of hope dimmed and I was discouraged, I prayed and had faith. Four short months later those prayers were answered when the Johnson family donated this home to Habitat.
She added, “This is perfect for us! My children don’t even have to change school busses and I am very close to work. This home was built in the 1970s and was well maintained by the former owner.”
Renovations included new exterior siding, windows, roof and driveway. The interior has been totally redone with new drywall and flooring. The living room has been opened up to flow into the dining room and a kitchen with a pantry and adjacent utility room have been completed. “I selected the flooring, kitchen cabinets, and appliances along with the bathroom fixtures and the exterior siding color,” Lehto stated.
Lehto worked alongside the teams of volunteers renovating her home. “As an applicant, I am required to give 250 hours of “sweat equity” working on this home and others, which has been so helpful. I am learning all kinds of useful skills and will be able to take care of my home,” she said. “This is a dream come true.”
She also attended monthly homeownership education classes focused on financial literacy, home maintenance, and community building and a homeowner budgeting class. She had to meet specific financial guidelines, be able to make low monthly mortgage payments, and have an acceptable credit record.
Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Mike McIntyre said, “I think the homeownership project at 5939 Artwell Dr. really speaks to the tremendous good that comes from our community. The home was donated by our community for a family in need. Blessings came from the church community to help spiritually and financially support this project. Another donor paid tribute to their own family by financially supporting this project. The Sylvania community is pouring incredible volunteer hours, along with Habitat for Humanity staff, to ensure a wonderful home is being rehabilitated for another family. All this support, precisely at a time when our future homeowner, Casey, was disillusioned about the prospect of achieving her dream of homeownership in this community. This incredible support has made that all possible.”
In addition to the Artwell home donation, McIntyre credits the significant gifts of the Rowland Miller family and Sylvania United Church of Christ in helping Lehto to realize her dream.
“My family and I have a long history with Habitat for Humanity and believe in the organization’s mission,” offered Susan Rowland Miller. “We approached Mike when we received the proceeds from the sale of my husband’s parents’ home where were our family often gathered and made wonderful memories. We wanted to pass the blessings we realized in that home and give that opportunity to others.”
Volunteers working on this project, under the direction of site supervisor Tim Ringle, included teams from Interrupt Marketing, Hylant, Olivet Lutheran Church, Savage & Associates, Sylvania United Church of Christ, Rowland Miller family and friends along with community volunteer Peggy Bondy and others.
Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity is the local affiliate of the Habitat for Humanity International organization, a global nonprofit Christian housing organization. Its mission is to seek to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope.
Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1988 and serves the Lucas County area. In the last 29 years, the organization has provided housing for over 200 families.
Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity believes that all hard-working individuals and families should have access to the benefits and stability of homeownership. In this belief, the organization is committed to partnering with families to build simple, decent, and affordable housing. Future homeowners buy their new or rehabilitated home with a 0 percent interest and a 15- to 30-year mortgage.

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