Home for the holidays: IUPUI Habitat build features foundation of love

Chancellor Paydar and others pose outside of a house.View print quality image
IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar, far left, poses with just some of the hundreds of people who came together to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity. The new home was dedicated Dec. 12 for mother and son Colesta and Eddie Peppers. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

Home for the holidays will have a new, uplifting meaning for Indianapolis' Colesta and Eddie Peppers.

The mother and son's new house in the Near West neighborhood was dedicated on Dec. 12, thanks to Habitat for Humanity and IUPUI. The three-bedroom, one-bathroom dwelling was finished early that morning after almost three months of construction. A red ribbon was cut, and keys were ceremoniously transferred to Colesta's gloved hand.

Eddie was overwhelmed at the space. Recalling his grandmother's cramped apartment in Chicago, where the whole family and neighbors had only one bathroom between them, his mind was reeling at the possibilities of the 1,200-square-foot home, which features a laundry and utility room, an electric stove, and several closets.

"Wow -- it's amazing," Eddie said. "I'm pleased with everything they've done."

As part of its 50th Anniversary celebration, IUPUI joined Bank of America in sponsoring Habitat's 23rd build of 2018 in Indianapolis. Constructed from scratch by almost 300 faculty, staff and students under the leadership of Habitat's Tiger Team, the house sports crimson siding, cream trim and a gray upper level, where an attic is available for storage.

Eddie and Colesta Peppers stand on the front porch of their new homeView print quality image
Eddie and Colesta Peppers, from left, pose with the keys to their new home, courtesy of IUPUI and Habitat for Humanity. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

On a morning that was chilly but not too bad for mid-December, Colesta and Eddie were all smiles, relieved to finally have stable housing after years of financial struggle. They lost their father and husband in 2004 from a fatal heart attack. Thanks to the Habitat project, the family was finally able to leave transitional housing and move into their own home.

Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar helped break ground on the build site back in September. He and the dozens of other IUPUI and Habitat personnel in attendance for the open house were impressed with the results.

"This is a wonderful legacy IUPUI is leaving here," he said. "It couldn't have happened at a better time -- just a couple of weeks before Christmas."

Stacey Clifton, technology services specialist at University Library, helped paint and hang trim in the bathroom with some of her colleagues. She always wanted to help with a Habitat build and saw the 50th Anniversary project as the perfect opportunity.

"When I was helping paint, it didn't look like an actual home," Clifton remembered. "I'm in disbelief how it looks. I couldn't see it at the time, but now that I see it finished, it looks really great."

Habitat will return to the site in the spring to work on the landscaping around the house. Volunteers will again be needed to complete the outdoor work.

The Pepperses successfully completed 300 hours of "sweat equity," which consisted of financial and homeownership education, according to Abri Hochstetler, associate director of communications for Habitat. That preparation will help with upkeep, helping ensure their new home is around for a lifetime.

After months of hammering, sawing and installing, the hard work has culminated in a home built on a foundation of love and community. IUPUI is happy to be the family's backyard neighbor.

"My mom loves it. I love it," said Eddie, standing in his brand-new living room. "It's a blessing how they did it and how hard they've worked."