MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — Mike Unger described the house Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Panhandle will build for his son, Shane, and himself as a blessing.
“God’s had his hands in this,” Mike said Tuesday at Habitat’s offices as he and Shane signed the papers to get the construction project underway. “I want him to have access to move around and to be independent. I’m not always going to be here. I told him, ‘I want you to have a place to call your own.'”
Mike turns 59 soon and Shane is 30. Shane was born with spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair. Spina bifida is a birth defect wherein the backbone does not fully close, exposing the spinal cord, which can damage the spinal cord and nerves.
The house Habitat has planned for the Ungers will be its first fully compliant Americans with Disabilities Act home.
The Ungers currently live in The Cottages on Eagle School Road in Martinsburg.
“The bathroom is small and the rooms are small — room size is important,” Mike said.
The Ungers’ home will be built in Habitat’s Auburndale subdivision off Humanitarian Way in Martinsburg. Habitat officials hope for a May groundbreaking.
The sponsor for this project is the Berkeley County Cluster of United Methodist Churches, which includes 25 churches. The churches have been raising funds for this project over the past 18 months, including a music festival at Spring Mills High School.
Part of the funding for the project is coming through the West Virginia HOME Consortium of the Eastern Panhandle’s Homeowner Assistance Program.
The HOME Consortium includes Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties and the City of Martinsburg. It is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A portion of the funds must be set aside for a designated community housing development organization. Habitat is the locally designated CHDO.
The cost of the house is projected to be about $120,000, Karin Dunn, Habitat’s operations manager, said Tuesday.
In the past, several businesses, groups and organizations have donated material, equipment and time to Habitat projects.
Ed Hall, pastor of the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, will be the general contractor for the project.
This will be the sixth house built in Auburndale and 36th Habitat for Humanity of the Eastern Panhandle has built in its 24-year history.
Shane’s aides saw the struggles he was having at the Ungers’ current residence and suggested contacting Habitat to see if it could help, Mike said. The Ungers applied in October and were approved for the program in December.
Shane has undergone innumerable surgeries and continues to receive treatment on a regular basis, Mike explained.
Shane is a graduate of Hedgesville High School. Despite a 12-hour operation and four months recuperating right before graduation, he was able to wheel down the aisle to get his diploma with his class.
He is a volunteer assistant coach for Hedgesville High School’s girls softball and basketball teams.
“I’ve been coaching for nine years,” Shane said. “I got my state coaching certification seven years ago. One of our girls just signed with Glenville State to play softball.”
His father said Shane has a way of communicating with the athletes that other coaches do not have.
“His message is to take advantage of the opportunity you have been given,” Mike said.
A Hedgesville native, Mike was a truck driver, but had to have emergency surgery for a tumor on his spinal cord in 2013, putting an end to his truck driving days, he said.
Mike is on disability, but has a Christian music ministry in which he performs.
“You are now part of our Habitat family,” Ed Grove, Habitat’s executive director, told the Ungers. “As a partner family, we will work with you side by side.”
Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/