Habitat for Humanity constructing 'dream house' for deaf couple

April 16, 2004|HERB BROCK

Donald and Darah Turpin plan to celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary this August with something a little different than a box of candy. The centerpiece of their celebration will be shaped like a box, but it will be a lot bigger than the kind of container that bon bons come in.

Their wedding gift to each other will be a brand new house - a modest but modern, three-bedroom, two-bath model that the young Danville couple are helping to build themselves. The Turpins are involved with a large team of volunteer laborers and companies that are donating time and materials in the latest Habitat for Humanity home-building project.

But this project is a little different than most. The same hands the Turpins are using in helping to build their new home on Duncan Hill in south Danville are also used by them for communication. They are deaf, and so is their 3-year-old daughter, Sarah.


"We are all deaf. (But) we are like anybody else who wants to live in a new house," said Don Turpin, 32, a custodian at Kentucky School for the Deaf, through deaf interpreter Mary Fran Melton.

"It is great to see our new house as it is built. We can't wait until it is finished," said Darah Turpin, 28, who just landed a job at a local restaurant.

Mother, daughter losing their vision

Darah Turpin hopes she and her daughter will be able to see their new home when the family moves into it. She and Sarah both suffer from Usher's Syndrome, a genetic disease that is causing them to lose their vision. But for now, the mother and daughter are busy storing up a lot of mental snapshots of the construction.

"Right now we both have trouble seeing out of our left eyes. It will (eventually) affect both eyes," said Darah Turpin, also through Melton. "(But) we will still enjoy the new house. We will see what it looks like, and we will remember."

The Turpins' current residence is a mobile home they rent in south Danville. It's a nice place but doesn't have the space the family needs, said Don Turpin.

"For five years, we have tried to get a loan for a house, but we have been rejected," he said. "We have been praying to God for five years for a house."

The Turpins' prayers were answered a few months ago. Don Turpin got a tip from a co-worker at KSD, longtime deaf interpreter Rita Zirnheld. She suggested he contact Habitat for Humanity Boyle County. The Turpins followed Zirnheld's advice and applied to be a Habitat family.

In order to be accepted as a Habitat family, the Turpins had to meet three criteria: they had to be living in "inadequate housing"; they had to prove that they could pay for the house; and they had to agree to provide "sweat equity" labor in the construction.

"Basically, the family must be to pay the exact cost of the house, and they do so by paying off a no-interest loan from Habitat for Humanity, which is a United Way agency and receives generous contributions from them and also from individual donors," said Mike Smith, project manager who also is a board member, chairman of the finance committee and member of the family selection committee.

Most Habitat houses are in the mid-$40,000 to the upper-$40,000 range; the Turpins' house will cost in upper-$40,000 range, he said.

"Sweat equity" is required

As far as "sweat equity," each adult in a family must agree to provide 250 hours, Smith said. Thus, the Turpins are providing a total of 500 hours, he said. "I'm helping with the cleanup every day, and I mow the grass, and I help with the construction on Saturdays," said Don Turpin. "I would like to invite anyone with time to help us on Saturday."

A group of his KSD co-workers already has responded to Turpin's invitation and will swell the ranks of the regular crew of volunteer workers, most of whom are retirees, this Saturday. "It will be KSD work day," he proudly proclaimed.

Don Turpin's work won't be over when the house is completed, however. He plans to build a garage next to the house, which will include a living room and dining area in addition to the three bedrooms and two bathrooms. "Although they are all similar in size, we offer each Habitat family several different three-bedroom and four-bedroom floor plans to select from," said Smith, a retired self-employed entrepreneur.

The Turpins' house is one of two that Habitat currently is constructing. The other is on Hayden Avenue.

"We build two houses a year. This (Turpin) house is the 22nd that the local Habitat has built in its history" over the last 15-plus years that the organization has been in existence in Boyle County, Smith said. "We currently have four families waiting for homes with the Turpins and the Hayden Avenue family in line to get theirs this year."

Smith said the work is hard but rewarding.

"Our volunteers and the extremely generous companies who donate labor and materials all are motivated by a desire to help people improve their lives, and one of the most important ways that can be done is through home ownership," he said. "The families don't just get a new home. They get a lesson in responsibility. This really can be a life-changing experience for people who never owned their own homes."

The Turpins are more than ready to share the experience. The family has moved from their rental mobile home and are living with friends, counting the days until they can move into their new house.

"This will be our anniversary present," said Don Turpin.

"It will be more than that," said Darah Turpin. "It will be a prayer that was answered. It will be a dream that came true."

"Yes, it really will be a dream house," said Don Turpin.

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