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Just in time for the holidays: Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity helps woman own new home

Lori Hannahs’ new two-bedroom home in Pequot Lakes was built with funds raised by the 2021 and 2022 performances of Dancing with the Lakes Area Stars.

Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers help left the wooden framework of Lori Hannahs' new home in Pequot Lakes when it was under construction earlier this year.
Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers help left the wooden framework of the new home of Lori Hannahs (far right) when it was under construction earlier this year in Pequot Lakes.
Contributed / Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity
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PEQUOT LAKES — There’s no place like home for the holidays, and Lori Hannahs knows that better than most.

She said she could not afford a home in the Brainerd lakes area without Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity’s help. She spent her first night in her new home in Pequot Lakes on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

“It felt really good,” Hannahs said of moving into the two-bedroom home constructed on a vacant lot adjacent to the Paul Bunyan State Trail. “It was nice just to have a roof over my head … a nice clean and safe and warm house … and the first night, it actually felt like home.”

The 52-year-old last owned a home almost a decade ago when she was married. Hannahs works at Clow Stamping Co. near Merrifield but grew up in the Pequot Lakes area.

“I live on a single income,” Hannahs said. “After I went through my divorce … I haven't been able to find anything reasonable around the area.”

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Lori Hannahs takes a break while helping build her new Pequot Lakes home.
Lori Hannahs takes a break while helping build her new Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity home in Pequot Lakes.
Contributed / Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity

During more than a quarter of a century, Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers have built more than 100 homes in Cass, Crow Wing and Hubbard counties and the city of Staples for people like Hannahs, who said the older modular home she rented leaked water and had mold.

“It wasn't heated really good. I mean, like, the furnace constantly would run,” Hannahs said. “I always had to have a heat blanket on the roof to keep the ice from building up so it wouldn’t, like, drip down or whatever in front of the doorstep.”

Hannahs said she paid about $500 a month in rent and almost $300 more on top of that for utilities, but she could afford it and it was one of the few in the area that accepted dogs, so she became a longtime renter.

“In the wintertime, it was always more for the heat and stuff because it wasn't really insulated the greatest,” Hannahs said.

She said she took the chance and applied to the Brainerd-based Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity, which strives to ensure that “everyone, everywhere has at least a simple, decent place to call home,” according to its mission statement.

“I gave my story and hoped that I would get a response back in order to be able to get into a home … and not have to be in that rental thing for the rest of my life,” Hannahs said.

The exterior of the home of Lori Hannahs in Pequot Lakes during winter.
Contributed / Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity

Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Kevin Pelkey said, “She actually applied almost two years ago, and it takes about six or seven months for us to complete our application process, especially the last couple of years where we've had so many people apply.”

Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity is a faith-based organization that recruits volunteers to build or renovate homes, and partners with families in need and area organizations, such as the Greater Lakes Association of Realtors.

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“We would really like to stress that Lori’s house was funded through the Dancing with the Lakes Area Stars event. They do so much to support the event and Habitat,” said Lori Rubin, resource development director for Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity.

Hosted by the Greater Lakes Association of Realtors, the annual fundraiser patterned after the dance competition television series on ABC features local couples dancing to raise funds intended to change a family’s life with affordable housing.

Hannahs had to contribute a minimum of 300 hours of her own time to the construction of the 1,000-square-foot home in Pequot Lakes, according to Pelkey.

“It appraised at $175,000. We're fortunate we found a down payment assistance program that helps offset some of that appraisal value and then the rest was just in a forgivable mortgage from us,” Pelkey said. “Being a homeowner, you're actually accumulating wealth by making your mortgage payments and watching the values of those homes rise over time.”

Kevin Pelkey, Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity executive director, hands the keys to Lori Hannahs' new home in Pequot Lakes to her.
Contributed / Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity

Hannahs was the third recipient this year Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity helped with home ownership, according to Pelkey, but he said there were almost 90 who applied the year Hannahs turned to the organization for assistance.

“This new house will be both affordable for her to own, meaning the mortgage payment, and affordable for her to operate, meaning the utilities,” Pelkey said.

“Their mortgage payment is also supporting the community that they are living in because making part of their mortgage payments includes that property tax, so they're contributing back to the community that helped them become homeowners in that community.”

Construction on the home began in June, but progress was delayed due to a shortage of volunteers.

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Now, Hannahs is home.

“Even though it's such a hassle — the whole packing and winter storm stuff — I mean, just knowing that, ‘Hey, this is going to be worth it in the end,’ just felt so good, you know? It was very heartwarming,” Hannahs said.

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FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .

I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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