Michael Conerly: Home for the Road Ahead

Michael Conerly has the kind of smile that takes over his whole face, particularly when he’s talking about his four chldren. He worked 14 years for Hotard Motor Coaches as a motor coach operator, and he entertained as a DJ on the side. That life was interrupted in 2012, though, when he was diagnosed with Chronic Eosinophilic Leukemia. Ever since then, planning for his children’s future has taken on a new urgency. There is no cure for Michael’s illness, and over time his mobility will become increasingly limited. Because Michael knows that the best recipe for a strong future is the stability of homeownership, he decided to join our First Time Homebuyers program to buy a Habitat home.

We adapt our sweat equity requirement for partner families who aren’t physically capable of working on a build site. Michael earned all of his sweat equity hours in the ReStore, coming in for shorter days a few times a week. The partnership experience ended up having its own benefits for him. Shorter days in the ReStore helped him regain some of the stamina and strength he has lost through his illness, and he learned a few things along the way, too. He says, “The knowledge that I accumulated through Habitat’s classes and doing volunteer work in the Restore was overwhelming. I’ve never met a group of people so loving and caring as the Habitat for Humanity Family.”

We also adapt the homes we build when partner families have mobility challenges. Since Michael will eventually need a wheelchair to get around, his home was built with accessibility features that will meet his needs both now and in the years to come. It includes a wheel chair ramp, wider hallways, larger interior and exterior doors, a wider bathroom, a wheelchair-accessible vanity, and grab bars in the bathroom. We were able to avoid adding these extra costs to Michael’s
mortgage because of the generosity of donors who stepped up to cover these expenses.

For Michael, owning his own home means stability. He won’t ever have to worry about rent increases or not having his lease renewed. Michael feels a new level of security in knowing that his home is equipped to meet his physical needs as they change over time. Most importantly, this home gives Michael peace of mind in knowing that he has a solid asset to leave behind for his children. When asked what he would do the day he was handed the key to his home, this is what Michael had to say: “I think the first thing I’m going to do is stand in the living room and jump for joy. I think after that I’m going to go somewhere nice and quiet, and pray. Thank God for that blessing.”

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