DANVILLE — Someone pinch Candace McNeal.
The Danville woman has helped build two Habitat for Humanity houses, but she still can't believe that she and her three children are getting one.
"This is the American dream: to own your own home. And I feel so blessed to get to live this dream," said McNeal, the recipient of the Danville chapter's first house build this year.
Habitat officials and volunteers will break ground on the McNeal family's home at 604 Townsend St. at 3 p.m. today. The public is invited to attend the ceremony.
Executive Director John Graves said the house build is being sponsored by Habitat's ReStore at 121 N. Walnut St., Danville. The ReStore program accepts gently-used home furniture, furnishings and other items for resale, and uses the proceeds to help build affordable housing for qualified families.
Graves said the house build will be the organization's 48th project in the Danville area, and possibly, the first of three that will begin this year.
"We'd like to do two more this year, but it depends on when the funding comes in and what the need is," he said.
Habitat is building McNeal a ranch-style house with about 1,450 square feet and four bedrooms. Lowe's donated a yard shed, which already has been placed on the property.
The house will be valued at $80,000 to $90,000, Graves said. However, he said, homeowners receive a 20-year no-interest loan, so McNeal will pay about $60,000.
Graves said construction will begin as soon as possible and take about a year. He added officials are looking forward to turning over the keys to McNeal, who has been waiting for a home for about two years.
McNeal is a financial aid adviser at Danville Area Community College. Though she became pregnant with her oldest child at 16, she said she vowed to get an education and set a good example for her child.
McNeal graduated from Danville High School in 2002, then enrolled at DACC. "I sat out for a few semesters to go to work. But I went back, and I've been in school every since," said McNeal, who earned an associate degree from DACC in 2008 and a bachelor's of science degree in career and organizational studies from Eastern Illinois University in 2010. She is currently working on a master's degree in family consumer sciences at Eastern and hopes to continue working at DACC.
"I like working with students and being able to help them through the process and help them reach their goals, like someone helped me," she said.
McNeal also vowed to become a homeowner one day. She never dreamed her first home would be newly-built for her.
"It couldn't have come at a better time," said McNeal, a divorced single mom. She said she and her sons — Jamar're, 10; Caveon, 8, and Jamar'rea, 5 — moved in with her dad last year after he had a stroke. "They all had to share a (bedroom). They're so excited to be getting their own room."
Homeowners are required to put in 250 hours of "sweat equity" with the organization. McNeal has already logged more than 100 hours helping out on other Habitat projects and at the ReStore. She said she and her two older sons, both students at Northeast Elementary Magnet School, are eager to help out on their home.
"I definitely think we'll appreciate it more," she said. "I've tried to teach them that you have to work hard to get things, but hard work pays off."