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Habitat for Humanity-Lima Area Inc seeks to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ by working in partnership with people who blend their time, talent and gifts to build simple, decent housing with families in need so all are encouraged to be what God intended.      ----Mission Statement, Habitat for Humanity, Lima Area, Inc.

The Lima Area Habitat Center Story

Home of Habitat for Humanity-Lima Area, Inc.,

550 W.Elm St., Lima OH 45801-4730

Future home Habitat-Lima signWith the lease on the current Habitat Center at 123 E. Wayne ending staff were challenged to consider alternate space along with extending the lease on present location. Openness on the part of the Board of Directors to purchasing space broadened the possibitities as staff looked at possible sites.

After looking at various possible sites the search process focused on a building at 550 W. Elm St.  Its first occupant was El-Par Motors, a Chysler Motors dealership.  After El-Pr closed its doors it was occupied by Allen County housing many differing servcies including Job and Family Services and the Welfare Department. 

When they left the building sat empty until a local group purchased it to removate it to establish a church.   Their work began--a lot of deconstruction and the beginnings of a whole building sprinkler system.  It was likely this project that proved to be its doom.  Unfortunately costs prevented completion of the project.  The building was foreclosed and a bank became its owner.  For nearly five years the building sat empty as it waited for the a buyer.

550 W. Elm St., LimaAfter looking at various other buildings in the downtown Lima area someone suggested that we look at the 550 W. Elm St. Building. Then ReStore Director Chuck Eichelberger was the first to get into the building.  Impressed by the potential he saw in it he began introducing other staff and Board members to the building.  One of the keys to the decision to purchase was what would need to be done to satisfy code with respect to fire suppression.  In other words, would the sprinkler system installation need to be completed in order for us to occupy the building?  

We were told by an official in the City of Lima Buildings and Zoning Department that we would not need to be complete the half-installed system and make it operational in order to get in.  There were so many positives about the building that we believed would make it an ideal space to house our operations.  Not having to complete the system seemed to us to make the project feasible.  With that word the Board of Directors acted on December 14, 2010 to make authorize the purchase.  On January 21, 2011 the papers were signed transferring ownership to Habitat for Humanity-Lima Area, Inc. (Click here to see a photo album showing the building as we first saw it. Close window to return to story).

No one could have known then the twists and turns that would need to be navigated as we entered into the project.  These pages will attempt to tell the story.  Watch for updates from time to time.  As the story is told we  hope you will also begin to see the wonderful opportunities that this building will offer toward becoming a more vibrant and effective Habitat for Humanity affiliate. Please note that the newest entries will be immediately below with older entries below from newest to oldest.

A GRAND "Grand Opening" 

A sense of anticipation could be felt as the staff anticipated the arrival of guests for the Friday afternoon reception to honor and thank the suppliers and contractors who did much of the work on new Lima Area Habitat Center.  By 4:00 p.m. the ReStore portion of the building was filled with many who did their part to complete the whole.

Executive Director Lavon Welty welcomed the 60 or persons in attendance with words of gratitude to each one who played their particular role in the renovation project.  Other speakers in the program included Allen County Commissioner Dan Rieff, Lima City Council President John Nixon and Chad King of the Citizens National Bank.   Bruce Hilty, president of the affiliate's Board of Directors also spoke to the group thanking each for their excellent workmanship or supplies provided. 

A special part of the program was the presentation of a donation of $25,000 from Todd Sutton, Plant Manager at the Potash Corporation of Lima.  It was given toward the overall costs of the renovation of the building.  Included also was the presentation by Executive Director Lavon Welty on behalf of the staff of the Occupancy Permit to Bruce Hilty with words of appreciation to the Board of Directors for their leap of faith in approving the renovation project and their strong support throughout.

The slide show below provides a glimpse of the reception activities.

The next day, Saturday, February 18 the staff gathered early to prepare for another day long anticipated--a Building Open House and Grand Opening Celebration for the ReStore.  The ReStore door was slid open promptly at 10:00 a.m. with guests and shoppers already gathered outside on a beautiful sunny day.

At 11:15 a.m. with the arrival of Mayor David Berger of the City of Lima the Executive Director Lavon Welty welcomed the crowd numbering more than 100 with introductions of Board Members, Staff, and special guests including the Mayor and Frank Gorman representing Habitat for Humanity International. 

Both Mayor David Berger and Frank Gorman brought greetings from their respective organizations and spoke of the significance of the step our affiliate is taking as it enters a new era with a "home" of its own and the possibilities of working with more families to place them in simple decent housing.  Seeing itself as an extension of the mission of the churches in Allen County, Board Member Jane Brown, lay pastor of Ridge United Methodist Church near Delphos led a prayer of dedication, blessing the building toward its intended use of providing useful space for carrying out its mission.

The rest of the day saw a steady stream of friends and shoppers come into the building.  More than $1,700 in sales were made on this special day while many left pleased to have heard their name called as door prizes were announced every 15 minutes.  Among the prizes and give-aways was a 32 gigabyte thumb drive, gift certificates to several local restaurants, and a $100.00 gift certificate to a local jewelry store. 

Check out the slide show below to get a flavor of the day's activities.

Citizens National Bank Financing

A decison like our affiliate made when we purchased the building at 550 W. Elm St is nearly always continuent on having financing in order.  So when Citizens National Bank of steped forward to provide financing, a major issue was resolved.  Not only did they agree to finance the puchase of the building but also the cost of its renovation.    Chad King, VP, Citizens National Bank

In the picture (right) Chad King, Vice President of Citizens National Bank of Bluffton, OH hands Executive Director Lavon Welty the final installment of the loan,  The CNB loan totaled in excess of $260,000 and will be paid back over the next twenty years--we hope much sooner than that. 

The Board of Directors and staff are very grateful for the confidence in our affiliate by Citizens Natiuonal Bank to make avialable to us more than $250,000.00 make this venture possible.  Their confidence has been confirmed many times in the two weeks we have been open as customers have expressed both surprise and delight as they come into the new store.

Exciting First Day

 Customers were standing at the door waiting for staff to open the ReStore at its to open the ReStore at its new location at 550 W. Elm St. at 10:00 a.m. sharp on Wednesday, January 18.  In the picture at right, Kathryn Brunk of Elida is the first customer to enter the ReStore followed by others. 

The first sale was made to Willie Russell of Lima being served by cashier Joyce Roby.  All day long a steady stream of persons came into the ReStore. 

Some came to shop having missed shopping at the ReStore the past ten days while the move was being made.  Others admitted to coming out of curiosity to see what we had done to remake the building.  Many expressed surprise at the transformation of a building that is remembered to be a car dealership and then the county welfare office. 

Earlier in the morning Executive Director Lavon Welty called staff and volunteers who had come to do final preparations for opening together for a brief time to reflect on the incredible work that has taken place over the past year.  He thanked those who were there as volunteers as respresentives of all who had come during the past year for the hundreds of hours donated to help make the transformation possible. 

He had special words of appreciation for the affiliate staff--construction managers and ReStore staff--for the leadership they provided through it all.  He called all to recommit themselves to the challenge that is Habitat's in assisting those living in unacceptable substandard housing circumstances to be able to live in more healthy, decent homes.  

Finally he closed with a prayer of thanksiving for God's guidance throughout the entire project and God's presence with all who participated.  You are invited to join with the staff in prayer as you read it:

Eternal God, creator, sustainer, and guide, we stand at a special place today.  We are at an end, yet also at a beginning. 

Since last January when we took possession of this building we have been looking forward to this day.  Our anticipation has seen times of great excitement but also times of frustration and discouragement.  We have been on a roller-coaster ride, experiencing many ups and downs in the year-long process. 

Through it all, you have sustained us and when we kept our focus on the larger reason for this space we could keep going in spite of all the seemingly endless delays.  We acknowledge that this project is a God-thing, a participation in the work of your Kingdom here on earth.  We give thanks for your sustaining presence and guidance as we have transformed this space.

Yet we are also at a new beginning that has been made possible by many who have given themselves to bringing us to this place.  For the many volunteers who gave hundreds of hours, we are grateful.  Without the generosity of so many who gave of their time and abilities, whether with well-honed skills or only the willingness to be shown what to do and do their best, we could not have done this transformation work at a reasonable cost.  We have been blessed richly by their good work.

For the contractors who did their special part in aspects of the renovation needing special skills we are also deeply grateful.  Their capabilities were critical to making this space safe and efficient for our affiliate operations.

I give thanks for Roger and Andy, our construction managers through this project.  Their leadership, their willingness to keep plugging away when it seemed like the roadblocks were insurmountable, was truly a gift to this affiliate and to the community in which this affiliate works.  I am thankful that they used good judgment and common sense through it all and that there were no more than minor scrapes and bruises as they worked in sometimes filthy and dangerous conditions.

For Karen, Jim, and Benji, ReStore management staff, your presence through them has been felt as they took over leadership of the ReStore.  I am thankful for their effort and hard work as they transformed the ReStore in it former location into a place, though not ideal, where customers could feel welcomed and at home.  They have worked tirelessly to plan for and set up this place where those who shop will be feel at ease.  May they feel the hand of your presence in a special way as they now take the ReStore to even greater heights.

Indeed we stand at a new beginning for Habitat for Humanity-Lima Area, Inc. with this place.  As we step into that new future for the affiliate may we always keep in clear perspective that what we are doing is in fact your work.   For you have charged us to offer relief to those who suffer and struggle because they have no other means of escaping living in substandard housing and who long for a better life.  May this space serve to propel the work of this affiliate as we lead a community of persons who find joy in participating in giving some individuals and families in our area a hand up to a better and more healthy, wholesome existence.  

Now for all that has been and for what is yet to be, we give thanks and praise and commit ourselves anew to the being your servants, serving you and our community. 


ReStore Openng Day 1  ReStore Opening Day 2

ReStore Opening Day 3  ReStore Opening Day 4

ReStore Opening Day 5  ReStore Opening 6

Progress Report:  Major Changes!

Huge changes have taken place at 550 W. Elm St. since the last update on renovation progress:

  • Painting both the ReStore sales rooms has been completed.  A group of 10 volunteers came for the Painting Extravaganza on October 15 and painted almost the entire room.
  • The floor in both ReStore sales rooms was grinded smooth and all cracks filled by Custom Concrete and Coatings, LLC during the beginning October 18.  The job was completed October 24.
  • Staff completed painting the walls in the large main ReStore sales room and cleaned the floors on October 25 in anticipation of painting the floors the following day.
  • Painting the floors in both the ReStore sales rooms was nearly completed on October 26 by volunteers from the WORTH Center. It was finished by staff and several other volunteers the following day.
  • Carpet and tile flooring was completed by ReStore staff member, Jim Lewis in the entire front affiliate office area.  Construction Manager Roger Calvert worked with other staff and volunteers to install the suspended ceiling in the office area.
  •  Doors for the new ReStore entrance were installed by Construction Manager Andy Chappell-Dick
  • Workers from Armor Fire Protection Co. have completed installation of sprinkler heads throughout the office area.
  • Workers from Homeland Technology Group in Lima are at work wiring the building for communications installations as well as the security system.

Ceiling is Down!

Once the decision was made to sprinkle the entire building the question of financing the installation needed to be faced squarely.  But even before that we needed to get the figures.  The CEO of Armor Fire Protection was brought in.  Armor was the company that had done to partial installation for the previous owners, an installation that was halted in midstream due to lack of funds to complete it. 


Knowing the building well and what has already been installed, his first estimate was $60,000 to complete it.  But then he came back with another challenge.  Take out the false ceiling in the large 11,000 square foot room and the cost could be cut in half to $30,000.

In its glory days the room actually had two suspended ceilings.  The first was what one seems frequently in offices—small white supporting grids with ceiling tiles and lights sit in.  This ceiling had been removed in the work of the in prematurely concluded church renovation.

But above it was another suspended ceiling.  This upper one was a grid of two-by-four lumber hung by wires from the huge iron trusses and the purlins between them.  Tacked onto this wooden grid were composite tiles, some of which were hanging by only a nail or two when we bought the building.  Our plan was to use furring strips to stabilize the tiles, a project that was completed during the long wait for building plans and permits. 

Click here for a photo album showing the ceiling removal process (Close window to return to story.

If we did not remove this ceiling there would need to be two sprinkler systems installed, one above the ceiling and the other below.  Take all this uppermost suspended ceiling down and save $30,000 because only one system would be needed.  The answer was obvious—a “no brainer?  take it down.  But how?

 In the end, it was a three-step process.  First pull down the furring strips that had just been nailed up.  Then next, pull down the ceiling tile. Finally, the two-by-four grid was taken down piece by piece. 

It was an incredibly dirty job with dust filling the room due to the insulation that had been setting for many years on top of the ceiling tile.  But the job got done due to the good work of our construction managers, Andy Chappell-Dick and Roger Calvert and various crews of volunteers that came to help. 

A two-week long project, removing this ceiling exposed a barrel roof that will add expansiveness to an already huge room.  The challenge now is to figure out the best way to insulate the ceiling so as not to lose so much heat through the roof!   Click here to view a photo album of the two week process.  And breath a prayer of thanks that no one was hurt while it took place!


To Sprinkle...or not to Sprinkle 

(Posted 6/5/11) That WAS the question.  It was answered by the Habitat for Humanity-Lima Area, Inc. Board of Directors in its meeting Tuesday, June 14, 2011. The question has loomed large over the past six months as plans have been taking shape for the building at 550 W. Elm St. in Lima purchased by the affiliate to be its permanent home in January 2011.

The saga really began more than a year ago when we faced the question of extending the lease on our current space at 123 E. Wayne St.  We were certain that an extension of that lease would be possible.  Executive Director Lavon J. Welty, however, asked the staff to see if a building might be found to lease that would house our operations more effectively and efficiently.  Board President Bruce Hilty upped the challenge to find a building to purchase rather than lease. 

After considering various others the building at 550 W. Elm St. was looked at.  The steps leading to the purchase of the building are related above.  However, key in the decison to purchase was what would need to be done to satisfy code with respect to fire suppression.  In other words, would the sprinkler system installation need to be completed in order for us to occupy the building.  A previous group had purchased the building and partially installed a sprinkler system.  But they ran out of money to complete it and abandoned the whole project. 

We were told by an official in the City of Lima Buildings and Zoning Department that we would not need to be complete the half-installed system and make it operational in order to get in.  There were so many positives about the building that we believed would make it an ideal space to house our operations.  Not having to complete the system seemed to us to make the project feasible. 

With that word the Board of Directors acted on December 14, 2010 to make authorize the purchase.  On January 21, 2011 the papers were signed transferring ownership to Habitat for Humanity-Lima Area, Inc. In early April architect Frank Razinger, PE, began serious work on developing detailed plans for the building, necessitated by the fact that it was to be a commercial building.  By the second week of May the drawings were completed and submitted to the city with no sprinkler system included.  We were operating on the word that there would not need to be any.

However, the plan reviewer saw things differently.  He insisted that the Ohio Building Code mandated a sprinkler system in spite of the earlier word.  The ensuing conversation saw that mandate reversed and then reinstated.  Finally the city officials suggested that we attempt a variance on the building from the State of Ohio.  They committed themselves to support such a variance.  A hearing date was set for Monday, June 20. 

A variance, however, would necessitate the transformation of three walls in the building to become three-hour fire barriers.  While this would cost less it would mean an incredible amount of extra work including hanging sheets of 5/8 inch drywall—two layers—on each 14 foot high wall from floor to ceiling.  There were other enhancements that would also be costly. So it came to be that the Board of Directors met on Tuesday, June 14. 

Executive Director Lavon Welty and Construction Manager Andy Chappell-Dick prepared a document to outline the implications of a decision to by the Review Board to allow the variance.  They also listed outcomes if the variance was not allowed. In spite of the costliness of finishing the sprinkler system installation, the Board members present came to a firm, unanimous decision.  The half-installed sprinkler system WOULD BE COMPLETED.  The planned hearing for the variance would be cancelled. 

Key to the decision was the flexibility it added to our use of the building.  Without the sprinklers we would likely be limited in terms of how the space would be used.  It was possible that some of the space would not be able to be used as we had planned.  The sprinkler system would offer the flexibility we needed. The Board meeting ended with a strong sense that we had done the right thing even though it meant as much as $50,000 in additional costs.  The waiting was over.  We could now move on. Let the work begin again!

Ready to RE-Construct....Sort of....

Since January of this year we have been talking about moving from our current location at 123 E.Wayne St. to the building we purchased at 550 W. Elm St. with a projected date for moving of June 1.  That date has come and gone and we are still at 123 E. Wayne St.  Now we are thinking maybe August 15. Much work has been done DE-constructing.  Finally we have been given the ok to begin RE-constructing in part of the building-the smaller section in the front of the building that will serve as affiliate offices.  What has held things up?

Essenitally it is the question:  must we install a sprinkler system in the building?

The board of directors approved purchasing the building after having been told by the city of Lima Building and Zoning Department that a sprinkler system would NOT be needed.  That it would be a commercial building required complete drawings of all the work to be done.  Those drawings were done and submitted with no sprinkler system in the plans. 

However, the Building and Zoning Department issued a denial after a review of the plans.  The list of issues cited for the denial included one that stated that there MUST be a sprinkler system in the building.  Since this ruling we have had ongoing conversations with the Building and Zoning Department. 

At one point we believed we could proceed without a sprinkler system if we would divide the building in four distinct sections with a three-hour fire barrier wall between each.  Clearly the fire barrier approach would be the least expensive even though it would require installing on each wall a double layer of sheet rock (5/8 inch) and 90 minute fire doors among other things entailing a “ton of work?to be done.  The installation of a sprinkler system would be more expensive but would require none of the fire barrier work. 

Local officials cannot give final approval to proceed without a sprinkler system but are willing to support a variance that could be given by a State of Ohio appeals board.  This hearing will take place on June 20.

Until the sprinkler system issue is finally resolved we cannot launch full-scale work in re-construction of the building.  However, we were given permission to begin framing the front part of the building where the affiliate offices will be located.  This framing has now been completed—plumbing and electrical work will soon also begin by sub-contractors. 

This small step has felt good even though we know well that we are well behind our stated goal of being in the building by June 1.  Stay tuned for further developments.  And pray for patience for us as a Board and Staff as we await the outcome of this decision.

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