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Sycamore family celebrates 20 years in DeKalb County’s first Habitat for Humanity home

December 29, 2018

SYCAMORE – Tom Spielman was living in an apartment in the 2000 block of Sycamore Road in DeKalb with his family when they started looking at houses to move into more than 20 years ago.

Spielman, 64, said his wife, Kathy, came across an option to have a house built through Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County. Tom Spielman said he has her to thank for thinking outside of the box to find an affordable alternative to homeownership.

“I figured, what have we got to lose? Let’s see if we qualify,” Tom Spielman said.

Tom Spielman said it’s been 20 years since his family started building the house in the 2000 block of Glen Circle in Sycamore, which was the first Habitat home that was built in DeKalb County.

Tom Spielman said his family started building the house in April 1998 with the help of many volunteers, including members of the women’s soccer team at Northern Illinois University, who helped build the walls, and members of the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who wired the house. They moved into the house in September 1998.

“I felt like I won the lottery, so to speak, when we were picked,” Tom Spielman said.

Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County began organizing in the county in 1996 and received affiliate status in 1998, according to the 2012 Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County application packet. Each family that moves into a Habitat home is required to make a $1,500 down payment and invest a collective 500 hours of “sweat equity.” After they move in, the monthly mortgage payments are about $500 over 20 to 30 years.

The Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County affiliate has approved 11 families for homeownership in towns including DeKalb, Sycamore, Genoa and Kingston, the packet said.

Tom Spielman said he still lives in the house and a lot has changed over the years, including an additional garage and patio that he built, his kids growing up, his daughter getting married and Kathy Spielman’s cancer diagnosis and treatment.

He said he still feels lucky to be in the house that was built with the help of his community.

Tom Spielman said in the years since, he has helped to build five other Habitat homes in DeKalb County to give back to the community that gave him so much. He said he hasn’t helped build any homes lately, since it doesn’t appear that the county affiliate has been actively building in the past few years.

“I hope that they can continue what they started,” Tom Spielman said.

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