Habitat group aims to build in Monticello

After successful projects in DeLand and Hammond, the Habitat for Humanity group has turned its sights on Monticello.

A project dubbed "The Walnut Street Rejuvenation Program" has already begun, with groundbreaking on one lot and plans to build homes on five more lots on the street.

Habitat for Humanity has planned a neighborhood meeting at 2 p.m. on July 21 for those living around the area to hear what the group has planned for those remaining lots.

"We'll be talking about the lots we've been able to obtain there and just tell them what's going on and how we're going to fix up the neighborhood," said Larry McClure, a member of the Habitat for Humanity board.

McClure said early feedback from neighbors has been positive.

"They're just thrilled to death," he said.

Habitat for Humanity is slated to receive $25,000 a year for four years ($100,000 total) from the city of Monticello to buy the vacant lots on Walnut Street. The first year's funding was approved recently by the city council, and formal approval of the commitment is anticipated when the 2013-14 budget is approved July 22.

McClure said the project wouldn't have been possible without the city support.

"It buys those four lots and that's what they want to accomplish," McClure said of the city's vision to reconstruct a fallen area of town. "They want to clean up the neighborhood.

"We wouldn't have even been able to buy a lot in Monticello (without that money)," McClure added.

Habitat for Humanity will buy one lot each year and begin work on a house on each. The group hopes to raise enough money to purchase a sixth lot, across the street.

"I've already had a donation for half of the price of the (sixth) lot," McClure said, adding that work on that piece of property would occur after the completion of work on the city-funded purchases.

McClure said the board has plans to continue work in other towns, listing projects in DeLand and Hammond on the future schedule. The short-term plan for Monticello could turn into a larger, 10-year plan encompassing othertowns in Piatt County if the money is available.

The urban renewal envisioned by Habitat for Humanity has received a lot of positive responses from former mayors, city council members and current city officials, McClure said. He is happy to be helping the community the only way he knows how.

"I was one of the original members, but didn't join the board until later," McClure said. "It's the only thing I do, now. I'm fully retired and spend my summers helping out."

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