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There's no place like home 0

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

Habitat for Humanity Orillia Lake Country president Marlene Mattson, pictured at the grand opening of the Orillia ReStore, knows what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet. Under Mattson’s leadership, the organization will begin working on its fifth and sixth builds, for which the groundbreaking ceremony will be taking place at 1 p.m. this Saturday on O’Neill Street in Brechin.

Habitat for Humanity Orillia Lake Country president Marlene Mattson, pictured at the grand opening of the Orillia ReStore, knows what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet. Under Mattson’s leadership, the organization will begin working on its fifth and sixth builds, for which the groundbreaking ceremony will be taking place at 1 p.m. this Saturday on O’Neill Street in Brechin.

ORILLIA - 

Marlene Mattson knows hard times. As a single mother trying to make ends meet in the ‘60s, she juggled multiple jobs as she lived paycheque to paycheque, panicking at times about where the money to pay rent and buy groceries would be coming from.

Mattson, who considers herself lucky to have eventually landed a decent paying full-time job at a consulting engineering firm from which she has since been able to retire, has been a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Orillia-Lake Country since 2006. She took the reins of the organization in April 2011.

An international non-for-profit with 73 affiliates across Canada, Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to create “a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.”

The local chapter has built four homes for families in the area since 2007 and will soon be working on numbers five and six, for which the groundbreaking ceremony will be taking place at 1 p.m. this Saturday on O’Neill Street in Brechin.

The president of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter spoke with reporter Roberta Bell about the progress the organization has made.

Packet & Times: Habitat for Humanity and its mission statement seems like something you can really relate to.

Marlene Mattson: I’ve been down in the trenches. My pay didn’t stretch until the end of the month. I know how debilitating it is for your self-esteem and your self-worth to suffer because you’re trying to raise your family without enough money... I know how people feel in the moderate-to lower-income brackets when they have to go to a food bank or other source... It’s an extremely embarrassing and demeaning situation and when I was raising my child way back in the 1960s, there wasn’t such a thing as Habitat for Humanity.

P&T: Why do you feel Habitat for Humanity is such an important organization to have in the community?

MM: There are many members of our working community that fall through the cracks and they need a hand up. Habitat for Humanity gives that hand up to families that are willing to partner with us.

P&T: What are some of the reactions you’ve seen from those who have been helped by Habitat for Humanity?

MM: Our dedication ceremonies are very emotional events... If you’ve never looked into the eyes of a child when he discovers he has a bedroom all of his own in a safe and comfortable home of his own, I urge (you) to volunteer with Habitat and find out for (yourself) how much this opportunity means for a working family and their children now and into the future.

P&T: How do you feel your time with the organization has helped you grow as a person?

MM: You quickly learn as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity that there are many working, poor families in our community whose working dollars don’t nearly last until the end of the month. These working families don’t qualify for a conventional mortgage, nor are they able to save for a down payment on a home of their own. I think it’s just too easy to go through one’s life looking straight ahead without realizing the world others live in. Habitat for Humanity changes that outlook. It opens your eyes to the plight of others.

P&T: Under your leadership, this year alone, the organization will have celebrated the opening of the Orillia ReStore in January and the groundbreaking of two important builds in July. How do you feel about being part of such an important chapter in Habitat’s history?

MM: The ReStore profits funnel into our build account and help us to build homes in the future... It’s the volunteers that come out in the hundreds to help us with our build that should get the credit. Without these wonderful and enthusiastic volunteers, we wouldn’t be in the business of building homes for moderate- to lower-income working families.

P&T: What are you most looking forward to with the upcoming builds?

MM: I’m looking forward to the community involvement with the builds. This is the first time we’ve built in Ramara Township. We’ve had a number of companies come forward to offer their donated services and products... I’m very, very happy that the community is coming together. It takes a community effort to build a Habitat home.

roberta.bell@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @roberta__bell

Newsmaker features interviews with prominent local people presented in a question-and-answer format. If you have suggestions for someone who fits the bill, let us know at nathan.taylor

@sunmedia.ca or call 705-325-1355, ext. 239.

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