CHAMPAIGN — Arica Moss always wanted a home she could own for herself and her three daughters.
When a bullet shattered one of her daughter's bedroom windows at their Rantoul townhouse complex nearly two years ago, she wanted that home of their own even more.
Soon, she'll be closing on a new four-bedroom home of their own in Champaign that she helped build herself through Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County.
The newly built Moss house at 506 E. Beardsley Ave., C, one of four homes Habitat is building in Champaign-Urbana this year, was dedicated at a ceremony Thursday.
Moss, 33, and her girls plan to move in later this month after the girls are finished with their school year, she says.
A Freeport native who moved to Champaign in 2006, Moss said she moved to Rantoul about two years later hoping to save some money to pay off some bills, then move back to Champaign to buy a house.
She remembers the frightening night in September 2010 when a bullet went through the window of one of her daughter's bedrooms, and she walked in and stepped on broken glass.
"That's when I realized if God hadn't been watching over us that night, the situation could have been totally different," she recalls.
She later discovered her car had been hit by gunfire, and she wanted to take her girls and get out but didn't know where to go, Moss said.
"I could break my lease, but I was kind of stuck," she said. "I was praying where I could move to. God said, 'Just wait.'"
Moss's application to Habitat for a house was accepted in January 2011, and she has been going through the education and sweat equity requirements ever since.
She has put in volunteer hours at Habitat's ReStore retail shop and helped build her own home. She helped frame the house, install the floor and the siding, paint and landscape it.
"The only thing I didn't help do was get up on the roof," she says, laughing. "I was, like, I know it's mine, but I don't want to get up there."
Members of her church, Stone Creek Church in Urbana, came and helped with the painting, she said.
At first, her daughters were hesitant about leaving their friends and moving, Moss said, but they helped with small jobs at the new house and are excited about getting their own rooms.
An employee of Champaign County Head Start, Moss says her new home is right up the road from where she works, at Center for Women in Transition.
No more driving from Rantoul to Champaign to work every day, she says, though she still has a commute to school: Moss is set to receive her bachelor's degree from Eastern Illinois University in December in family and consumer sciences.
She hopes to use her degree to enhance her ministry, called Fresh Start Resources, in which she works with other single parents, she said.
Sheila Dodd, executive director of Habitat for Humanity, said it cost $120,000 to build the 1,200-square-foot Moss home. It's being sold to Arica Moss for $75,000, with the price reduced in part due to a city Neighborhood Stabilization Program that included a donation of the vacant lot on which the house was built.
The Neighborhood Stabilization Program provides federal grant money to buy and redevelop foreclosed and abandoned lots.
Dodd said Habitat typically builds one house a year, but this year will complete four: two in Champaign and two in Urbana.
The second house in Champaign is going up next door at 508 E. Beardsley Ave. and is set to be finished in July. It will be priced the same as the Moss home, Dodd said.
Two three-bedroom homes in Urbana will be built and sold for $70,000 at 1304 Dublin St. and 1204 Beech St., with both lots donated by the city, Dodd said.
All four homes this year are going to single moms, she said.