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Caption for photo: The derelict house on Mill St. being rehabilitated by MDS for MennoHomes. 

As soon as MennoHomes won a house in the Region of Waterloo housing lottery in December, Executive Director Dan Driedger knew what he was going to do—call Mennonite Disaster Service.

“I reached out to MDS immediately,” said Driedger after he learned his organization, which provides affordable housing in the Kitchener-Waterloo area in southwestern Ontario, would receive one of three derelict houses being given away by the Region.

The houses, located on Mill St. in Kitchener, have been vacant for about ten years.

“It was exciting to win the house,” said Driedger, noting the Region has a huge housing crisis with over 6,000 households in need of housing—up from 4,000 three years ago.

“There is such a huge need for good housing,” he added. “It’s great to be able to help one family find a good, safe place to live.”

Getting the call from MennoHomes was exciting for MDS’s Ontario Unit as well.

“With the border closed due to the pandemic, volunteers can’t go south to the U.S. like they normally would to serve with MDS,” said Earl Martin, treasurer for the Ontario Unit.

“This gives them a chance to do something closer to home,” he said, noting there is a pent-up demand and energy among some volunteers who haven’t been able to serve because of travel restrictions.

That’s the case for Bruce Weber, who is serving as Project Director for the Mill St. house renovation.

“I’m stranded here,” said Weber, who has served with MDS in the U.S. each winter for the past 12 years. “I’m available and willing to serve.”

For Weber, this will be the first time he has done MDS service in Canada.

“I can’t go south this year, but I still want to do something to help others,” he said, adding for him the unexpected opportunity is “one of God’s good stories.”

To make the house livable, MDS volunteers will add insulation, replace windows and floors, repair plaster walls and paint. A new roof will also be put on the house.

Total cost of the repairs is estimated to be about $30,000 CDN, which will be provided by MennoHomes.

Due to the pandemic, only three or four volunteers will be allowed in the house each day in order to maintain social distancing. All volunteers will also need to wear masks and have their temperatures taken each morning before starting work.

“It’s not a disaster,” said Martin, who is retired from a career in construction. “But helping people get a good home to live in can be foundational for everything else in improving their lives.”

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications Coordinator

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