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Building a new chance and a home out of misfortune

Lisa Bartlow and her son are latest to receive Habitat for Humanity home.

New homeowner Lisa Bartlow, right, gets a hug from Wyoming Valley Habitat for Humanity Partner Family Mentor David Doty, left, as Executive Director Karen Evans Kaufer looks on at a dedication ceremony in Edwardsville on Sunday afternoon.

BILL TARUTIS/For The Times Leader

EDWARDSVILLE -- Three and a half years ago, Lisa Bartlow was involved in a devastating car crash that left her permanently handicapped, out of work, and living with her parents as she tried to get back on her feet.

Today she can walk proudly through her home, located across the street from her job, with the knowledge that she’s truly blessed and on the path of recovery.

Lisa and her 9-year-old son, Ian, are the latest partner family to receive a house from Wyoming Valley Habitat for Humanity. The Bartlow house is the 17th for the organization.

“This is the first house I’ve ever owned,” Lisa said. “It’s so exciting that I’ve been given this opportunity, for me and my son.”

The Edwardsville home was donated to Habitat by Bazil Grabovsky, whose family purchased it in 1952.

Habitat renovated the house according to Lisa’s needs. They made sure all cabinets were accessible for her 5-foot-tall frame, and they also installed handrails on the front porch and throughout the home to help her move around easily.

As part of the program, Lisa was required to put in volunteer hours.

“I believe Lisa finished her hours in record time,” said David Doty, Habitat’s partner family mentor.

Lisa not only put in hours at her own home, but helped at a site in Wilkes-Barre as well as the habitat office.

Karen Evans Kaufer, area Habitat executive director, refers to this as “sweat equity,” or time spent volunteering with Habitat.

“It connects the family to the house and to their community,” she said. “It’s also a good way for our many volunteers to put a face on the people that they’re helping.”

In addition to this requirement, partner families must have the ability to repay a no-interest, 20-year mortgage.

Kaufer said many believe Habitat houses are handouts, but these requirements ensure that’s not that case.

“We refer to them as hand-ups,” she said. “We’re giving a family the opportunity to enrich the way they live.”

“This woman capitalized on the hand-up from day one,” said Doty.

Lisa worked on the house since September.

“It was incredible to work on what I could think of as my home,” she said, “and learn how to do different things, like spackle, sanding, painting.”

She was also floored by the other volunteers.

“It really is amazing to know that people have that much heart and they’re willing to give their time to others,” she said. “I’ve been near tears so many times during this whole experience.”

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