Tabitha Chandler family moves into Little Falls home
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
After four years of living in a 120-year-old rented house with unrepaired water damage, holes in the ceiling and “bats like crazy,” Tabitha Chandler and her children are still pinching themselves to understand that they now have their own home. The family moved into Habitat for Humanity of Morrison County’s 14th home in December. The Little Falls home was dedicated during a ceremony, Jan. 11.
“I had heard of Habitat but didn’t know much about it. I went to Social Services asking about housing options in the area and they recommended that I go talk to Kathy at the Habitat office,” Chandler said. “That lady changed my life.”
Her application had to demonstrate her ability to repay the mortgage, given to Habitat homeowners at 0 percent interest.
It was a Monday afternoon a few weeks later when Kathy Kahlhamer, Habitat’s executive director, asked Tabitha to stop by the office.
“She asked me to run over for a few questions,” said Chandler. “Then she told me she really just wanted to see my face when she told me we were chosen for this house.”
Chandler said it was a good month before the realization hit her.
“I was in shock,” she said. “I told my son, Sam (now in ninth grade), and he thought I was joking.”
Chandler’s daughter, Danielle, is a student at St. Cloud State University.
“My first thought was that I’ll finally have a place my kids can call home,” said Chandler.
It was a challenge finding time to do everything during the building process. In addition to being “mom” while working full time and doing online classes, there was work on the house. Every homeowner family is required to put in hours volunteering at the house and with Habitat fundraising projects.
“I slowed down with school,” Chandler said. “My student mentor told me that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They cut me a little slack.”
The best part of the building process for Chandler was the Women’s Build — two days set aside for only women to work with the site supervisor.
“Putting together the walls and doing it with my daughter was the most fun,” said Chandler.
Chandler was fascinated watching the house go together piece by piece.
“I never knew what went into building a house,” she said. “It’s like a dance, everything done in order.”
Chandler believes that being part of the process makes her appreciate the house a lot more.
“I know every little detail of this house,” she said. “I know that behind the drywall there is a bolt holding down every stud.”
She was amazed at how many people care and came to volunteer, contribute or just pitch in and help.
“People are so busy, you don’t see that much any more,” she said. “There were times I felt overwhelmed at all the generosity.”
Chandler is eager for spring and gardening. The Royalton Master Gardeners planted the first tree on the lot last fall, a maple.
“I want to do all the landscaping — flowers, a vegetable garden and planting more trees,” Chandler said. “There is a nice back area for a peaceful retreat for me and my kids.”
The whole family is very pleased to be in their own home.
“Sam is so happy. The day we moved in, he set up the radio system in his room and just listened,” Chandler said. “Danielle said it feels very homey here, very comfortable.”
Chandler has been employed by Royalton Elementary School for more than 10 years and is now a special education paraprofessional. Her online classes will complete her degree in special education.
“I envision my kids visiting for years and years, knowing that however life treats them — this is home,” she said. “It will always be their safe place.”