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James, Katie and Their Family

The McSweeney Family enjoying their new home, built by Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity volunteers

CONGRATULATIONS! The McSweeney family moves into their Forever Home in Richmond

Imagine living in an apartment, with paper-thin walls, no GFIs, a breaker box next to water and non-working smoke detectors in the two bedrooms. The bathroom was a former closet with holes so big you could see down into the cellar, which had water in it. The couple used lots of spray foam insulation to try to block drafts from the cellar, windows and holes in the walls and covered the opening to the second floor bedrooms in an attempt to keep the small living area warmer. Even though their apartment was very small, the furnace kicked on constantly due to the poor insulation, yet they were still cold.

That was the “home” for James and Katie McSweeney and their three young daughters for 4 long years. Their oldest daughter Nina, 5, has cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities and is in a wheelchair or a walker as well as on a feeding tube. The apartment had no ramp, so not only did they have to carry her inside, but also upstairs to bed. The apartment didn’t have much storage so they had to leave her wheelchair on the porch where it was damaged by weather.

The McSweeneys also have daughters Chanelle, 3 and Kinsley, 9 months. James has been an assistant manager at Domino’s Pizza since 2012 and Katie stays at home to provide full-time care to Nina as well as Chanelle and Kinsley. The family is so excited about moving into their new home in Richmond for many reasons. First of all, the home is one-story and there is enough space for Nina to easily get around with her walker and she doesn’t need to be carried upstairs to go to bed as she did in their apartment. The house is extremely energy efficient and in the two weeks that they’ve been in the house (at the writing of this article) Katie said “the heat doesn’t need to come on very often and we’re nice and warm! We know that our energy bills will be lower, even though the house is bigger than our apartment. And, we have a bathtub in our new home which makes it much easier to bathe all of our girls rather than the tiny shower in our apartment. James and his father are going to build a ramp to the house in the spring so that Nina will be able to get in and out of the house on her own in her wheelchair.

The McSweeney home is on a very quiet street and there is a yard where the girls can play. James said “The new wiring in the house and smoke detectors has greatly reduced my stress. I used to lie awake in our apartment worried that there would be a fire. Now I can rest easily.” He went on to say, “Owning a home is a wonderful opportunity for us and I’m looking forward to learning how to take care of our house, rather than waiting for a landlord who didn’t fix things. We also don’t have to worry that our apartment would be sold out from under us—this will be our forever home for Katie and me and our daughters.”

Katie added, “We want to help build homes for other families and to give back. We are hardworking and striving individuals and look forward to being part of a community. We are so thankful that there are kind-hearted people in this world who work to help others.”