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Local family chosen for Habitat for Humanity build

Ashley Gibson and her two children Malik, 5, and Maliah, 3, have a picnic on what will soon be their new home along Mississippi Avenue, thanks to the Northwoods Habitat for Humanity "Faith Build." Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - A Bemidji family will take the next step to owning a home May 19 at a groundbreaking ceremony in their honor.

Ashley Gibson, 27, and her children, 5-year-old Malik and 3-year-old Maliah, were chosen last November as Northwoods Habitat for Humanity's 39th homeowners.

"When I found out, I was so excited," Gibson said. "I cried and was in disbelief. I was so shocked."

For Gibson's home, the Northwoods Habitat for Humanity will be completing its first-ever Faith Build - a build in which volunteers from all types of religion come together to build the home. More than 150 volunteers from 10 churches will be participating, Geri Hickerson, Northwoods Habitat for Humanity's executive director said.

"This is a first for us and a step for the local congregations," Hickerson said. "They raised all the funds and found all the builders."

One of those volunteers is Barb Kemmer, who is leading the crew from First Lutheran Church of Bemidji.

"I have been an advocate for Habitat for years," Kemmer said. "People need affordable places to live, so this is very dear to my heart."

Affordability was the reason Gibson applied for a Habitat for Humanity home, she said.

"The rent I'm paying is far exceeding what it should cost to live in a house," Gibson said. "So I took a step to adjust my finances."

Less financial stress isn't the only benefit Gibson's new home will provide her family, she said.

"It means safety, a strong foundation and security for my children," Gibson said. "It's an awesome opportunity to achieve some of my goals."

To be considered for a Habitat for Humanity home, potential homeowners go through an application process.

"It is completely based on need," Hickerson said. "You have to have the ability to pay and be willing to partner with Habitat to help build your home."

Homeowners are selected by committee and must complete 250 "sweat equity" hours, 100 of which must be completed before groundbreaking begins. Hours are earned building other Habitat homes and are usually finished by building the homeowner's own home, Hickerson said.

The Northwoods Habitat for Humanity Faith Build's groundbreaking ceremony for Gibson's home is set for 10 a.m. May 19 at the build site, located on Mississippi Avenue, between Seventh and Eighth streets. The build will start June 14.