Taylor, 11, Jamie 5, and Kaden, 3, show appreciation for the family’s Habitat for Humanity home.
Taylor, 11, Jamie 5, and Kaden, 3, show appreciation for the family’s Habitat for Humanity home.
January 27, 2014

For Rob Perry, first came the sweat from countless hours of labor - the "sweat equity" he agreed to invest when his family was selected to receive a new home from the West Central Iowa Affiliate of Habitat for Humanity.

Perry participated in almost every possible build day. In fact, he says, he can remember almost piece by piece how the home on the southeast side of a cul de sac on South Elm Street in Carroll came together.

After the sweat, now comes the reward. Perry, his wife, Brandi, daughters Taylor, 11, and Jamie, 5, and son, Kaden, 3, received the keys to the home in a dedication ceremony on Dec. 1.

The Perrys have lived in the home at 216 S. Elm nearly two months, but Rob said every time he steps into the front door he's in awe that his family has been so blessed.

"I sit here sometimes after the kids have gone to bed, I look around and really play close attention to the ceiling," Rob says, pointing to a corner in the kitchen, "because I can remember the order in which the different pieces went in. That was the actual first piece of drywall we hung, that ceiling piece right there. I can remember it very specifically."

He recalls working alongside Carroll physician John Evans, going beyond the evening's build time to complete the roof on an upstairs bathroom area.

"We wanted to get that bathroom ceiling finished, and we stayed past the build hours to get it done."

At the time, Perry didn't know the volunteer he was working next to that evening was a physician until someone addressed Evans as "Doc."

"I didn't know at the time that he was a doctor," Perry said, "because he was up there roofing, just being one of the guys. To think that a physician, whose hands are so trained and skilled, would be up there roofing a house, is mind-baffling. I'm so appreciative. All the volunteers who were here were just awesome."

Indeed, Perry says the entire building experience - the more than 3,000 hours of work by approximately 275 to 300 volunteers from June to December, the food made for volunteers by church groups, the gifts from vacation Bible school students and others - followed by the dedication ceremony was awesome.

"I still have communication with some of them frequently," Perry says of volunteers, "because they're almost like second family."

Many of the volunteers, building-project leaders, Habitat officials along with Rob and Brandi's family and friends, were on hand for the dedication, led by St. John Lutheran Church Pastor Cindy Johnson, wishing the Perrys many years of blessedness in their new home.

"Wow! It was very emotional," Rob says. "You could feel the sincerity, that the people who were here for the ceremony were thrilled to be a part of it."

At the ceremony, Rob said he was very thankful to all the people who played a part in the project.

"It was finally reality. We put in all this sweat, all this time and all this energy," he says.

Rob says he and his family already felt very blessed, but one of the gifts they received at the ceremony reinforced for them how special this project was.

The Perrys received a shadow box displaying tree roots that had taken the shape of a cross. The roots were found during the ground work for the home, built on the former site of a tree nursery.

"There was definitely a plan that was put into place here," Rob says. "I don't think it was any one particular person's actions. But it really made sense that God was the meaning behind all of it. Since then, my wife and I have been debating where we're going to attend church. It's really opened up our eyes. The whole experience has been phenomenal."

Pastor Johnson said at the dedication that the home was obviously built with love, Rob says.

He adds, "And you can see it with everybody who had a hand in it - a lot of time, energy and effort put into the design of the home and the care that was put into it."

The new home is a big move for the Perrys, who had lived in an apartment and then a rental home since they moved to Carroll in February 2011. This is the first time they've owned a home.

Rob is a native of Altoona, graduated from Southeast Polk High School in 1997 and received an education degree from Drake University in Des Moines in 2001. After college, he taught junior-high math five years at St. Anthony Catholic School in Des Moines; served as operations manager for Blue Beacon, a multi-chain semi-truck wash service; and then taught intellectually and developmentally challenged children at ChildServe in Johnston.

"I just loved that field," he says of ChildServe position.

He became a residential supervisor at New Hope in Carroll in October 2010.

Brandi, a daughter of Corey Stout of Rockwell City and Kandie Stout of Grand Junction, graduated from Rockwell City-Lytton High School in 2006 and then took courses at Kaplan University in Des Moines. She works at New Hope in direct support staff.

The Perrys' children are Jamie, 5, who attends preschool at Fairview Elementary and Head Start at New Opportunities; and Kaden, 3, who attends Head Start preschool. Rob is also dad and Brandi stepmom to 11-year-old Taylor, 11, a sixth-grader in Des Moines.

The kids expressed their excitement throughout the build.

"They were saying, 'I want to see my room' even before there was any drywall up, there were just boards on the roof, the trusses were up but there was no plywood on the roof,," Rob says. "They've had ownership in it from day one. We all have."

To make their new home feel even more special, Jamie and Kaden both had the opportunity to select an accent-color wall for their bedrooms. Jamie's is magenta hot pink, since she wanted a "princess room." And Kaden's is deep blue, resembling his favorite character, Lightning McQueen, from the Disney animated movie "Cars."

The single-level home has a sandstone beige vinyl exterior. Upstairs in the approximately 1,020-square-foot home there's a large open living room/kitchen area, three bedrooms and a bathroom. The walls, ceiling, carpet, kitchen tile and countertops all feature neutral colors, such as eggshell white walls and bright white ceiling; gray, brown and tan kitchen tile, and brown and granite kitchen countertop.

During a tour of the home, the Perrys point out the numerous closets and the convenience of a light switch in each clothes closet. On Kaden's bed is a quilt given to the family by the St. John Lutheran Church summer vacation Bible school, who made Habitat for Humanity a focus of their study and activities last year. The class decorated the quilt by students placing a handprint on each square.

"(Kaden) calls it his hand blanket" and sleeps with it every night, Rob says.

The home's full basement has a finished bathroom with shower, laundry room and large unfinished room that the children use as their "art room" and where Kaden drives his small battery-powered 4-wheeler.

The high-quality workmanship, insulation and heat-pump system make the home highly energy-efficient, Rob says, noting, "The energy bills are nothing compared with everywhere we've lived so far."

The home's spacious lot gives the kids plenty of room to run, along with the family's nearly 1-year-old boxer dog, Sophie.

"The kids love it here," Rob says. "It's quiet. And right now it's as windy as all-get-out, but it's nice and quiet in here. It's great. And the neighborhood is ideal."

Habitat for Humanity says it's a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live. Habitat homes are built by volunteers under trained supervision. Site supervisor for the Perrys' home was Ken Ahrenholtz of Manilla, who was also instrumental in a Habitat project in Manning in 2012.

Habitat families receive interest-free loans, however, they must put "sweat equity" into the construction.

Habitat West Central Iowa affiliate treasurer Diane Renneke of Carroll says Rob Perry's dedication to this build was outstanding.

"The part that made it the best," she says, "is that was Rob always right there next to the volunteers. That means so much to the volunteers when they see the homeowner there working alongside them and appreciating the time the volunteers are putting into the home. I don't think Rob missed more than four or five days of the whole build. He always wanted to be there."

The West Central Iowa Habitat affiliate, which serves Carroll, Audubon, Crawford and Shelby counties, now has built 15 homes - five in Carroll, four in Harlan, two each in Manning and Denison, and one each in Glidden and Audubon.

Rob and Brandi say their home is a work-in-progress. They hope to install an automatic dishwasher and finish the basement with a family room and guest bedroom. One of the first improvements will be construction of a swing set donated by First United Methodist Church in Carroll.

"It's awesome. There's tons of room to grow into," Rob says of the home.

The Perrys celebrated Christmas in their new home and have welcomed visits by family and friends.

"There are so many memories already with this home," Rob says, "I can only imagine what future memories there will be."