New house provides way to plant roots in Spring Grove

Jordan Gerard

For Sherry Pitts and her family of four, a new house means a fresh start and the chance to plant some roots.

The family was living in Caledonia and moved to Spring Grove in 2016. Since then, they’ve been renting, but need a new home due to allergies and asthma conditions that Sherry and her youngest daughter, Jamesha, have.

“We knew we needed a different living situation,” she said. 

It’s also due to space for the family. Nine-year-old Jamesha’s siblings are Fenecia and Jasiah (both 14) and Kal-El, who is 15 years old. 

They are looking forward to their own bedrooms, though two of the siblings will share a space. At least until the older ones move out, Jamesha joked.

Spring Grove High School students designed the home with local architectural designer Miranda Moen. The plans are currently being adjusted to have four bedrooms and a bigger bathroom.

In addition to the family knowing their housing situation was in desperate need of a change, community members and their landlord, JC Nerstad, knew they needed a new one too. Folks were gracious enough to drop off the Habitat applications at her job.

When they found out they were selected, a wave of emotions ran through the family.

“We were joyful, excited, crying tears of joy and overwhelmed,” Sherry said. “It’s a really neat design and suits our style.”

The home makes use of small spaces, energy efficiency and space saving ideas. It clearly reflects the Norwegian architecture and heritage of Spring Grove.

What they are most looking forward to is the opportunity to plant roots in Spring Grove and call it home for the next 10 years or more.

“Everyone has been welcoming,” she added. “The school district is phenomenal. I’m excited to just be part of a community.”

The family went through a process in order to be selected for the house. It included looking at their monthly income, current housing situation and willingness to partner with Habitat for Humanity.

The committee put together of local partners and Habitat staff also did home visits to their current house and had a conversation about why they were interested in being a homeowner.

Sherry said she’s completing a majority of the paperwork and financial courses right now so that when the real work begins on the house, she’ll be ready to help out.

“The hands-on building part is going to be my favorite part. It will really make it ours,” she said. “I’m ready for it.”

Because of their age, the kids won’t be able to help on the actual home build, but they can do other things such as hang up flyers, serve beverages and snacks to volunteers and thank them for the house.

School groups will also be helping on the house, mostly for ages 16 and older, according to Habitat for Humanity’s guidelines. Younger groups may have the opportunity to work on landscaping.

“The life we’ve had and the struggles we’ve gone through, to overcome so many things ... to be blessed with this at this point, it’s overwhelming,” Sherry said. “We’re really happy to have been chosen.”

This is also the first Habitat Home in Spring Grove built by Habitat for Humanity – La Crosse Area. That chapter was looking for a way to expand into Houston County and they found it in Spring Grove. 

The family contributes 350 sweat equity hours into the home build as part of the process. About 2,000 volunteer hours and 175 volunteers will work together on the project. 

Once the home is complete and the family has completed the required hours of sweat equity, they buy the home at the appraised value.

The family will pay full property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Habitat looks at 30 percent of their gross income as an affordable mortgage payment and brings in assistance if needed. The mortgage is for 30 years.

The organization works with families to structure a monthly payment package to make sure they can pay the payments.

Executive Director Kahya Fox said the structure of the payment plans have an “extremely high success rate” and there have been “no closures ever.”

The family is able to sell the home if they want to, such as if they had to move for a job change. They also earn equity during their time as homeowners. 

For the first 10 years, they earn 10 percent of the equity and then in another 10 years, earn another 10 percent. Eventually the family comes to have 100 percent equity in the home.