Habitat repurposes former church parsonageBy:
Scott Williams, email@example.com
Leader Photo by Scott Williams
Homeowner Angie Wilber, right, wipes away tears during Saturday’s ceremony in her family’s new house, accompanied by her children, from left, Christine Wilber, 11, Vernon Doss, 16, and Richard Johnson, 17.
Leader Photo by Scott Williams
The house at 807 S. Prospect St. in Shawano was donated by Zion Lutheran Church and was refurbished after being moved across town by Wolf River Habitat for Humanity.
People facing hard times often reach out for help by going to church.
For Angie Wilber and her family, the church is coming to them — in a most unusual way.
A house once used by the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Shawano has been relocated and transformed into Wilber’s new home through the efforts of Wolf River Habitat for Humanity.
Displaced from her previous home by foreclosure, Wilber was overcome with emotion Saturday at a ceremony dedicating the home at 807 S. Prospect St. to her and her family.
“It’s given us a chance to start a new chapter in our lives,” she said. “Thank you to everyone and anyone who helped in any way.”
For the folks at Wolf River Habitat for Humanity, the house represents a unique achievement, one that could change forever how the group works in the Shawano area.
The former church parsonage was the first property that the local Habitat for Humanity chapter has ever uprooted and moved to a new location. The move occurred in August 2015, and volunteers then worked nearly two years to restore the building so it could be reused.
Mark Flunker, executive director of Wolf River Habitat for Humanity, said demonstrating that a house can be relocated means that the group will be able to consider similar donations in the future. In fact, two more houses have been successfully relocated since the Zion Lutheran parsonage.
Although much effort and expense goes into such a salvage operation, Flunker said, it is still better than allowing a perfectly good house to be bulldozed and hauled away.
“That would’ve been kind of a waste,” he said.
Leaders at Zion Lutheran Church were unsure what to do with the former parsonage after the church’s pastor took up residence elsewhere. The house was rented periodically, but it also sat empty for a while adjacent to the church, 1254 S. Union St.
Bob Burdick, who was president of the church’s council at the time, suggested donating the 60-year-old parsonage to Habitat for Humanity, a group for whom Burdick had been a volunteer.
The former church parsonage became the 14th house built or rehabilitated by the local Habitat for Humanity chapter since the group started in 1978.
The donation occurred in 2016, although nobody was certain at the time whether the house could be successfully uprooted and moved. Burdick said it took a leap of faith by Habitat for Humanity officials to undertake transporting the house across town to the vacant lot on Prospect Street.
“They did question, ‘Well, do we really want to do this?’” he recalled.
After the building survived the move, crews began the lengthy job of restoration, while also searching for a family who could make the place a home.
Wilber, 39, had been struggling since a divorce and a downward spiral resulted in foreclosure on the Shawano home where she had lived for 10 years. She and her kids were then separated temporarily, and the family was forced to put one of their two family dogs in a kennel indefinitely.
Later living in an apartment, Wilber approached Habitat for Humanity and found that the former church parsonage on Prospect Street was a good fit for her. She qualified for Habitat’s no-interest mortgage, and she worked countless hours alongside volunteers getting the house ready to be occupied.
She will live there with her three children — aged 17, 16 and 11 — as well as both family dogs, including the one coming home from the kennel.
Now working a new job with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, Wilber said she is grateful to have a new place that she and her family can call home.
“I feel like I owe a debt of gratitude,” she said. “I’m very humbled by that.”
Burdick attended Saturday’s dedication ceremony along with other Zion Lutheran Church members, and said he was excited to see the project completed.
After visiting the site many times and watching the restoration effort move forward, Burdick said the building has undergone such a dramatic transformation that he barely recognizes it as the former church pastor’s residence.
“What they have done to that house is just amazing,” he said. “Every time I go in there, I’m just in awe.”