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Shelter from the storm

Habitat for Humanity brings joy, new home to Dixon family

DIXON – There's a new home in Dixon. Pale green with red shutters and a white door, it sits at the end of a cul-de-sac on the southwest side of town, near the train tracks.

It's cozy and warm. And on this Sunday, it's full of people – all of them excited at the idea of handing over the keys to the family that will soon live in it.

It's a family of three: the mom, Megan Holbrook, 9-year-old Blayke, and Keeley, 6. And together, along with the people who helped make this dream a reality through Dixon's Habitat for Humanity, they're huddled inside on a stormy day.

This Sunday marks the 21st home dedication for Dixon's Habitat for Humanity. The group has been around in Dixon since 1992; they completed their first home in 1993.

During the beginning of the ceremony, Keeley fidgets with the cardboard laid down to protect the house's new carpeting from the muddy shoes traipsing through it.

Megan is overjoyed. It's a project that she, like all people who get a home through Habitat for Humanity, takes a special pride in. For the first time, her two children will have a yard, and their own bedrooms – Keeley picked out the carpeting in hers, a pale, creamy pink, and Megan expects the walls will soon be pink, too. Whatever Keeley wants. Blayke's room, with hardwood floors, he wants to take on a Dixon Dukes motif; he is, in Megan's words, "a big sports fanatic" and plays football and wrestles.

One of the requirements for having a Habitat home is that the owner puts in 200 hours of what Chris Gehlback, president of Dixon's Habitat for Humanity board, calls "sweat equity." Megan did just that, painting and nailing and stapling, doing whatever she could as she watched her home be built from start to finish.

"It's really awesome to see your house be built from the ground up, to see the transformation every week," Megan says.

Dixon's Habitat for Humanity selects one family every year, and then sells the house to them at cost. With much of the materials donated at a lower price, and the labor being free, this equates to payments of about $400 to $450 a month, Gehlback says.

Building season usually starts around June 1.

"It's hard," Megan says. "It's stressful, but it's a really good experience."

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