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Anonymous donations push Habitat build over finish line

A combined $130,000 from two anonymous donors means two local families should be in their new homes by Christmas

THUNDER BAY – After a longer-than-expected wait, two Thunder Bay families received the news they’d been hoping for Tuesday morning: the Leith Street duplex that will serve as their future home, courtesy of Habitat for Humanity, had reached its funding goal.

The news, made possible by two generous anonymous donations, means Shanda Woodbeck and Melissa Keefe should be in their new homes by Christmas, along with their families.

Fundraising shortfalls for the project, initially slated for completion in fall of 2019, were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Lana Vukelic, CEO of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter.

Declining donations and the temporary closure of the Habitat-run ReStore due to COVID-19 posed financial difficulties for the organization, she explained.

Habitat raised around $30,000 from the community after putting out a call for support in July, but were still far short of the total cost of close to $200,000.

That made the anonymous donations committed last week through the Thunder Bay Community Foundation (TBCF) particularly appreciated. Two unnamed donors are giving a combined $130,000.

One of those donors boosted their intended contribution by $50,000 to push the project over the finish line, said TBCF executive director Alexandra Calderon.

The two have “been historically incredibly generous,” she said, contributing to the Salvation Army’s new building and previous Habitat for Humanity projects.

Keefe was overjoyed when she heard the news, saying she had accepted the pandemic might scuttle the project for a long time.

“I know it’s hard times for a lot of people right now, and I didn’t think it was going to happen. But there are some really goodhearted people out there who care, and I’m thankful for that.”

Woodbeck agreed. She drives by the house regularly with her children, who are very excited for a new home with more adequate space.

“To have a home for my family that I know is mine is an incredible feeling,” she said.

In addition to the donors, Vukelic praised volunteers who have been contributing their time for months, completing framing, insulation, and some electrical work.

“It’s really fantastic to see the commitment, because they have nothing to gain other than the pure pleasure of trying to make a difference,” she said.

The duplex is the largest project the local Habitat group has taken on to date. The two-floor units are spacious, with five bedrooms each.




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