The New Holland neighborhood is growing hope for home ownership

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) – Rachel Hutchinson sees something very different in the stained grass and dirt at 285 W. 36th Street in Holland.

As she walks down the newly paved road lined with “Under Construction” yard signs, she sees the same hope she saw in a similar vacant lot 22 years ago.

“I see children playing. I see kids have a home base, a place they can always return to. And stability,” said Hutchinson.

In 1999, Hutchinson was a single mom, working in a factory, living in a run-down apartment, trying to get through the day—every day. Despite advice from those around her, she applied for a Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity and was approved.

“I got the letter and collapsed on the floor crying, which is why I still have my letter framed in my house. It meant taking care of my son, which… I didn’t know I’d be able to do that a month sooner. And he needed that,” Hutchinson said. “He needed his room. The room we lived in, we lived in an apartment, the building was built in (1800s). It was a slum, the landlord didn’t care. He slept in a kind of dining room. I just had to convert it into a children’s room… and that would be his home.”

Hutchinson wrote the last check for the mortgage on this house last year. She owns it entirely and now has her grandchildren to stay in the same room her son once called his own. She started her own business, went back to school and made time for herself. She attributes all of this to support Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity.

“I don’t think I would have ever progressed, not on my own. There would have to be an outside force,” Hutchinson said. “Associating with Habitat set the ball rolling for my son’s future, for my future. Being able to think about what I wanted to do for myself, not just my kids and my lifestyle and my faith. I mean, it all started with my connection to Habitat.”

It’s a connection she now shares with others through her work on the board. The organization has implemented its largest project, Vista Green Development. Vista Green will feature 42 affordable homes in a single neighborhood. Eighteen of these will be Habitat houses, the other 24 will be Jubilee Ministries Houses. Together, they hope to build a community that once thought homeownership was not part of the picture.

“The need for affordable home ownership is so great. Homes under $200,000 to $250,000 are what people in this area need and we don’t have them,” said Don Wilkinson, executive director of Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity. “Right now, Habitat and Jubilee are the only two organizations building something like this.”

Aside from being his greatest endeavor, the project will create a unique neighborhood experience with all homes facing inward to encourage neighbors who form meaningful relationships with one another.

A depiction of homes expected to be built at Vista Green Development. (October 2022)

“We’re not doing this for fame or glory, we’re doing this for families, we’re doing this for the kids who have a steady place to come home to after school, kids who have a space where they can do their homework,” Wilkinson said. “We are also planning a play area here, which the Outdoor Discovery Center will help us to build. And when we do that, it’s going to be a place where kids can have their best friends in the neighborhood to run around with, play with and be a part of. For me it’s just so exciting and makes us feel like we’re doing work worth doing.”

Wilkinson said work like this would not be possible without strong community partners to sponsor their efforts. For lead sponsor, LG Energy Solution Michigan, Vista Greens not only helps fund the work but also welcomes new neighbors.

“Vista Greens is only about three miles from our facility,” said LGESMI communications manager Val Gent. “We’re about building a sustainable future and I think Habitat for Humanity is about improving life in the future, especially for homeowners and children. I’ve seen some stats that actually say their kids’ lives improve when they become homeowners, and I think that’s incredible.”

Gent addressed her team LG Energy Solution Michigan will hopefully not only support the project financially, but also roll up their sleeves and help build some of the 42 houses.

“We pledge with support that we will show up and hopefully be part of the builds in the future, which I think will be really great for us to get our hands dirty and try to help those in need,” Gent said.

To celebrate the project, a block party will be held in the neighborhood where these houses will soon be. Everyone is invited to come out Tuesday from 6pm to 8pm and support the community around them for a night of free family activities. There will be carnival games, a fire engine, balloons, face painting, magicians and more.

“We’re a construction company first and foremost and would really like to throw a block party to celebrate the neighborhood, to celebrate this area,” Wilkinson said. “You know, if you look around, we have sidewalks all over this area. We want the neighbors to come and be a part of it. We want them to walk around here on the trails and really get involved in what we’re doing.”

They want neighbors to join the same hope Hutchinson saw in the seeds and see the difference it makes when the community works together with a pouring of support.

“It’s the people at Habitat that make the difference, the people who work for Habitat and with Habitat,” said Hutchinson. “It’s not something you get for free, you work to earn this house and then they don’t go away, they go through with you.” The New Holland neighborhood is growing hope for home ownership

Dais Johnston

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