Many families woke up Christmas morning to presents under the tree and a day of gift giving. The members of the Alford family, now of Roseville, Mich., got their present – the gift of a lifetime – a few days earlier.
On Dec. 20, Michael Alford and his son, Michael Jr., were joined by more than a dozen volunteers and others who made their dream gift possible as they were presented the keys to their new house, a Habitat for Humanity home that was created in large part due to the efforts of various contractors and construction professionals who donated a number of products, supplies and man hours to bring the home to life.
The house was the focus of last month’s cover story for Walls & Ceilings magazine. That article talked about how, after another Habitat house was created in 2005, the Insulating Concrete Form Association decided to get involved. The Alford home was constructed using insulated concrete forms for the foundation and above-grade floors and structural insulated panels for the roof. Once those steps were completed, the exterior of the home was done using a brick-look textured acrylic finish by Dryvit.
When the building process was ongoing, Beverly Alford admits it was hard to imagine that a once empty lot and the dug basement she called “the hole” would eventually turn into a home for her family.
“When I was working on the house, people would come up to me and say, ‘Beverly, aren’t you excited?’” At the time, none of the walls were framed and there were still plenty of obstacles to overcome. But when she returned several weeks later for a late-November dedication ceremony, she was overcome by the progress.
“I just couldn’t help it. I broke down and cried,” she says.
And while the home was a dream for the Alfords, it was also a thrill for Daniel Wiiki, executive director of the Macomb County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The last of seven homes completed in 2006 by the 12-year-old chapter, Wiiki said the Alford’s house was particularly exciting because of the involvement of so many new building systems.
“One of the highlights of the year was working on that house with all of the new products,” Wiiki says, adding that while the overall project took a little longer than usual to account for training of volunteers, it was worth it in the end because of the energy-saving and sound-insulation advantages provided. “The companies did a good job working with us to get people trained.”
Days before Christmas, though, any of the snags, problems or issues related to the construction process were nothing more than a memory or something to be laughed off. On that day, the focus was strictly on appreciating the efforts of everyone involved to make the home a reality. And perhaps no one was more appreciative than Michael Alford himself.
“The money is nice, but without the people to put their hands on the project, it wouldn’t get done,” Michael says.
It wasn’t simply the donation of goods and services, though. As Alford said, it was the overall feeling people had when approaching the project. Seemingly small gestures, such as leaving scaffolding and tools behind so that other tradesman could do the work they needed to do in a timely manner, helped make the home a reality, and showed Alford everyone was committed to seeing the house completed.
Beverly, who could not be at the ceremony when the keys were officially passed over, joked last month that while she would have loved to be in attendance, it may have been a good thing she couldn’t be there.
“I wouldn’t have been able to say anything,” she says. “I would have had to just reach out and hug them. For people and companies to donate to the organization like they did … I just couldn’t thank them enough.”
Originally, the Alfords planned to spend Christmas Eve in their old house and go to the new home on Christmas morning. Those plans changed when Michael Jr. “insisted” the family wake up Christmas morning in the new house. Beverly Alford said to watch their son get up Christmas morning and have presents under the tree – a tree donated and decorated by students at a local school – was present enough for the couple.
“Michael and I said we were blessed with this house, and that was enough,” she says. “To see little Michael get so excited, I can’t explain what this means for my family. I honestly think everyone who was involved with this house will be blessed.”
Of everyone in the family, though, Michael Jr. may have summed up the mood best the day of the key presentation. Taking a break from exploring new closets and rolling around on the newly laid carpeting, the 5-year-old was asked what he liked best about his new home.
“Look around you,” the wide-eyed Michael said. “Everything!”