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Habitat hands over keys to new Freeland home

Homeowner Mark Stephens stands in front of his newly built home in Freeland. The home is built by the homeowner and volunteers from Habitat of Humanity of Island County.  - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Homeowner Mark Stephens stands in front of his newly built home in Freeland. The home is built by the homeowner and volunteers from Habitat of Humanity of Island County.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

Freeland welcomed a new homeowner to the Beachwood neighborhood Thursday.

Mark Stephens, 29, received the keys to his new home after 500 hours of labor and more than 1,000 hours from 55 volunteers provided by Habitat of Humanity of Island County.

“Words can’t explain how I feel right now,” Stephens said. “I’ve dreamed about being a homeowner since I was 13.”

Working with all of the volunteers was a great experience, he said. Stephens worked full-time at Village Pizzeria while putting in his volunteer hours for the house. He said at times he was working 92 hours a week.

“It’s nice putting a hand in building it and working on the house layout,” he said.

Construction on the two bedroom house began in March.

The home sits on a quarter-acre and includes a porch. The estimated value of the home is about $165,000 and is more than 1,000 square feet.

Stephens said he would like to build a music studio once he is settled.

This is the first house built on South Whidbey by Habitat for Humanity since 2010. The organization now has three other projects in the works including two in Oak Harbor and one on Camano Island. Celeste Erickson / The Record | Mark Stephens receives keys to his new home from Damion Lopez with Habitat for Humanity.

“It’s nice to have a homeowner and house in South Whidbey,” said Calvin Hewitt, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Island County.

“We have good volunteer support from the local store.”

Damion Lopez, volunteer and construction supervisor, said he was excited for Habitat for Humanity to return to South Whidbey.

“The response from our dedicated volunteers making the drive from the North End was humbling. Working for Habitat and having such a profound impact in people’s lives has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Lopez said.

The entire process took a couple of years for Stephens as he applied multiple times.

“Mark wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Hewitt said. “I’m excited to see his persistence paying off.”

A candidate for a home through the Habitat for Humanity must show need, the ability to pay and complete 500 hours of labor by the candidate or a friend of the candidate.

Now the organization is looking at land options for another recently selected South Whidbey family, Hewitt said. He hopes to turn around and start building soon.

Hewitt wanted to show the community programs that assist people who are low-income are working.

“We’ve got a homeowner paying property taxes,” he said.

“We want to invest in homeownership.”

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