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Thirteen-year-old Danielle Lilly is excited to spend the holidays in her new home.

That’s because this holiday season will be unlike the rest. She, her dad, and her grandfather will celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas in their new home located in the Guyandotte neighborhood of Huntington. Gone are the days of renting a new place every couple of years. Now, thanks to Habitat for Humanity of the Tri-State and despite COVID-related setbacks, the Meadows and Lilly family are homeowners.

“I’m very excited to spend the holidays here,” Lilly said. “I like to cook, and this is a very nice kitchen. It’s more modern and the appliances are new and easier to use.”

Cooking in the new kitchen isn’t the only thing that excites this eighth-grader about her new home.

“It’s a big house and I have the biggest closet,” she said excitedly. “It’s twice the size of the other closets.” She has big plans to fill that new closet with clothes and shoes, but she may save some space to put in a bookshelf or two.

Congratulating a new homeowner and seeing this kind of joy and excitement is what David Michael loves most about his job as Executive Director and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of the Tri-State.

“It may be a little cliché to say it, but this is what we do,” he said September 26, when he, Habitat staff, and others gathered at the home to present the keys to the new homeowners. “At the end of the day, all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes results in this. To get to this point, there are a lot of struggles and a lot of dotting of I’s and paperwork, but to see all that come to fruition and to sit down with a family and say welcome home, it really is special. It makes all that stuff we do behind the scenes worthwhile.”

The Meadows/Lilly home is Habitat Tri-State’s 154th completed home, but they have several more in the pipeline. The organization received $100,000 from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund’s Affordable Housing Fund in 2021 to build four new homes, including the Meadows/Lilly home. Another $100,000 grant in 2022 will aid in the construction of more homes, and a $50,000 grant helped Habitat Tri-State prepare five lots for future builds.

David Michael, CEO of Habitat Tri-State, said each home build is special, but he’s proud to dedicate the 154th build to the memory of Donna Meadows. Meadows passed away before her new home was complete.

“We didn’t have any other place to turn to find money for demolition or to do asbestos testing and abatement,” Michael said. “Having this money was critical to us from an organizational perspective mostly because these dilapidated buildings posed safety threats to the surrounding community. Thank goodness none of these structures caught on fire, but they could have very easily. We were able to get all these structures down and now we have nice green lots we can build on.”

Habitat for Humanity requires homeowners to put in “sweat equity,” or assist in the building of their future home. Donna Meadows, Lilly’s grandmother, spent many hours at Habitat Tri-State’s ReStore shop in anticipation of moving into the home with her family. Meadows sadly passed away before the home was complete.

“I was working a lot at my regular job, so my mother was working with Habitat,” said Jeremiah Lilly, who is Danielle’s father and Donna’s son. “She did a lot of volunteering and was really excited. I’m just sorry she didn’t get to be here to see it.”

Michael and his staff have built a relationship with the Meadows/Lilly family over the course of the application process, as they do with many future homeowners. Michael said that even though Donna Meadows has passed on, he will cherish her memory and he dedicated the new home in her honor.

“She put in a lot of discipline and hours, so dedicating this house seemed like the next right thing to do to honor her memory,” Michael said. “All Habitat house builds are special, and each have their own family situations that make them unique. This one really hits home.”

And the Meadows/Lilly family is looking forward to making their new house a home just in time for the holiday season.

For information on the Affordable Housing Fund, click here.