December 25, 2018
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Kayla Leonard, of Huntington, from right, and Thomas Leonard cut the ceremonial ribbon with their children Levi Leonard, 3, below, Kaihana Leonard, 13, young Thomas Leonard, 9, and Kaitlynn Leonard, 8, as the Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity hosts its 109th dedication ceremony on Thursday in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Kayla Leonard looked around the living room of her brand new house on Jefferson Avenue, empty except for family and friends who were admiring the space, now home to Leonard and her family.

“I want to decorate it in a farmhouse theme,” she said. Her husband, Thomas Leonard, 28, had chosen a light fixture that resembled mason jars to hang above the kitchen island, something Kayla Leonard, 29, said she had never had before. This island, she said as she admired its gray countertop, would be filled with a feast of turkey and ham for her family on Christmas.

The Leonards’ new home was dedicated by Habitat for Humanity the evening of Dec. 20, just in time for the family of six to move in and get settled for Christmas. The four children, 13-year-old Kaihana, 9-year-old Thomas, 8-yearold Kaitlynn and 3-year-old Levi, will each have their own bedroom.

When David Michael, the executive director and CEO of Huntington Area Habitat for Humanity, came to visit the house before the dedication, he said Levi was so excited to show him his new bedroom. This is the first time Levi, who turns 4 the day after Christmas, has ever had his own space.

The younger Thomas said he has big plans for his bedroom.

“I’m going to make it into a game room and play a lot of games in there,” he said. “I’m glad we can live in here.”

“That’s what this is all about,” Michael said. “You walk in, and you get this feeling. You hear the excitement of the kids and their voices and they have this opportunity now to start something brand new.”

Kayla Leonard, a cake decorator, and Thomas Leonard, who works at Autism Services, met while they attended Huntington High School. Kayla Leonard said the family has been in numerous difficult housing situations — from houses where all the kids were crammed into one bedroom to houses that stayed cold in the winter due to ineffective insulation.

They had to move out of their most recent place of residence early and have been staying with Kayla’s mother for three months waiting to move in to their new home.

“Being here in a five-bedroom house, I never would have dreamed I’d be where I am before the age of 30,” Kayla Leonard said. “I feel like when I look at my kids, I’ve pushed myself for them. I just feel like it’s a blessing to be able to say I’m 29 years old and a homeowner.”

Their house is the 109th dedication in Huntington Area Habitat’s history.

As is standard with HAHFH’s house dedications, the family received a housewarming gift from Tri-Area Needle Arts Guild, an American flag from Woodmen Life, a Bible from Habitat for Humanity and pantry staples from Facing Hunger Food Bank.

The house was part of Habitat for Humanity’s Bankers’ and Brokers’ Build, in which several financial groups in the area provided financial sponsorship and volunteer labor.

Kayla Leonard and Thomas Leonard put in more than 450 sweat equity hours throughout the course of the program. Kayla Leonard said the two have spent so much time and money working on getting things ready for the house, that it became the gift they gave to each other.

On Christmas day, the all sis Leonards will be warm and cozy in their new home, watching Christmas movies and eating food prepared in their shiny, new kitchen.

“I feel like when I look at my kids, I’ve pushed myself for them. I just feel like it’s a blessing to be able to say I’m 29 years old and a homeowner.”

Kayla Leonard

cake decorator

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