Sunday, November 3, 2013

Family from Burma gets first home in Waterloo

. In this Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, photo, Dominic Lazum, left, and his sister Margaret Lazum, right, look over all the books that were donated to the family at their new home on Independence Avenue in Waterloo, Iowa. The family, refugees from Burma, spent 10 years in a refugee camp in Malaysia before coming to the United States in 2010 with the help of Catholic Charities. Photo: Matthew Putney, AP

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — The two-story, five-bedroom house in the 200 block of Independence Avenue is the 119th home Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity has dedicated, and it is the first the Lazum family will call their own.

The Lazums — John and Esther and their seven children ranging in age from 1 to 20 — were all present at this week's dedication event. The youngest, Francis, attended in his Batman costume.

The family, refugees from Burma, spent 10 years in a refugee camp in Malaysia before coming to the United States in 2010 with the help of Catholic Charities. Originally living in Louisville, Ky., they relocated to Waterloo in 2011. They are the first of Waterloo's growing Burmese population to be able to purchase a Habitat home.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports ( ) more than 60 people — friends and family, Habitat staff and volunteers, neighbors and members of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where the Lazums are parishioners — toured the home and attended the dedication, many offering their congratulations and presenting gifts to the family.

The house, built in 1912, is the biggest project IHHFH has undertaken in terms of volunteer hours and resources. It was completely gutted, the upstairs was reconfigured to add a bedroom and bathroom, new windows were installed, and the boiler in the basement was torn out.

That is just a sampling of the work that went into the house.

Lindsay Pieters, IHHFH development director, said most projects average between 2,500 and 3,000 volunteer hours.

"This house took more than 4,000," she said. "Our volunteers stuck with us till the end on this one. We really appreciate the donations and the volunteers so we are able to keep this house affordable."

Irvin Tiller and Butch Stohr, both of Cedar Falls, are two of the volunteers who worked on the house.

"This is the biggest," Stohr said. "You name it, and we did it."

The pair helped with electric, plumbing, siding and pulling out the plaster and laths on the walls, among other things.

"We don't count hours," Stohr said. "It just seems good to volunteer. To see the family here today, knowing this will be their home ... it feels great."

"It is a wonderful feeling knowing we've done something like this and then turn it over to the family," Tiller said. "It's precious.

"And these are the best people you'd ever want to work with," he said.

As with all Habitat homes, the family is required to put at least 300 hours of "sweat equity" into the house. The Lazums logged more than 685 hours, many of them coming from the three oldest children, Margaret, Dominic and Rosemary.

IHHFH Executive Director Linda Morgan spoke during the dedication ceremony, saying the home had been vacant and deteriorating for years before Habitat purchased it in January.

"This is so exciting," she said. "Such a big house and such a nice, big family."

The Rev. Ken Stecher, pastor of Sacred Heart, blessed the home, and a number of organizations presented the family with gifts, including a Bible from Bethel Presbyterian Church, a sampler from Prairie Rose Embroidery Guild and a new hose and nozzle from Master Gardeners.

"You can use this to water the grass, or plants or to hose down a dirty kid," said Kris Pond-Burtis.

Lowe's Corp. partners with Habitat International to give Master Gardeners a discount so they can provide a hose at each dedication, she said.

The family has been living in a rented house.

When asked to show off her new room, 3-year-old Lucy jumped up and headed for the stairs.

"Let's go!" she said.

Instead, she makes a bee line for her older sister's room where a basket of toys grabs her attention.

Margaret and Rosemary, 17, point out where their beds will go and show off their roomy closet.

"We are very happy and very grateful," Margaret said.

Luke Lazum, 13, will enjoy having his own room in the new house. Though his family struggled in the past, he isn't surprised by their good fortune.

"I thought it would happen here," he said.

Dominic Lazum put in a lot of hours working on the house, painting, cleaning and helping to install windows. He said it has been amazing to see how the home has turned out.

"Better than I expected," he said with a grin.

Dominic, 18, is a senior at Columbus Catholic High School and plans to go to the University of Iowa to study engineering. He remembers living in Burma.

"It feels good to be here," he said. "My life is a lot better than in the past. It's great. This will be our first house."

Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier,