October 6, 2022

Champaign native, health care professional becomes newest Habitat homeowner | Housing

URBANA — At long last, Breiona Marrissette has her home.

It’s here, more than two years after she filed the real-estate agreement and put in hundreds of hours laboring with Habitat for Humanity staff and local volunteers to bring it to fruition.

“It’s been a long process,” said the Champaign native. “It’s just a happy moment for me, to finally get my own home.”

She’ll get the keys to her Kerr Avenue residence in Urbana at 6 p.m. Thursday, with the moment being broadcast on YouTube. Marrissette’s home is the 118th built by Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County.

Marrissette grew up in the area around Centennial High School, which she attended for freshman year before transferring to and graduating from Central across town.

“I always wanted to work in health care,” she said, so she went through Carle’s Certified Medical Assistant program a few years ago. Trainees in the program spend three days a week in the classroom and the other two helping at local clinics, she said.

Today, Marrissette assists a variety of patients as a CMA in the front lines of Carle Foundation Hospital, after a stint in its orthopedics department. She hopes to one day work in surgery.

“I look forward to helping patients and making them feel comfortable, not judged,” she said. “My love and passion for doing for others is what brought me to health care.”

One of Marrissette’s close friends went through the Habitat program and encouraged her to apply soon afterward.

“At the time, I wasn’t ready to have that responsibility,” she said, but she remained intrigued. She took a required home-education class and applied the following September.

Marrissette remembers seeing the big line of applicants, worrying whether her submission would get a fair look.

“Happily, they called me,” she said.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit housing organization that provides affordable homes for applicants in need.

It uses donations to help homeowners finance their residences through 0-percent-interest mortgages and some down-payment assistance. Local sponsors and the homeowner round out the rest.

In this case, Big Grove Tavern paid $50,000 toward materials for Marrissette’s Urbana home and amassed volunteers for the Monday build sessions, said Chad Hoffman, director of the Champaign County Habitat chapter. The Urbana HOME Consortium and Habitat donors provided additional funding.

Habitat homebuyers are required to complete 300 hours of service with the organization, including at least 100 hours building their own home, along with financial training courses and individual counseling.

Applicants are selected for their level of need, willingness to partner with Habitat and ability to repay the mortgage.

“The whole process is a full transformation, not only for the individual but for those volunteers participating,” Hoffman said. “We try to make it a hand up, not a handout.”

Hoffman credited Marrissette for her “positivity, keeping her head up and making sure to work through everything that came her way” during the construction process.

“We were so happy with her flexibility,” he said.

The home was originally set to be completed last spring, Marrissette said, but pandemic-related delays and supply issues pushed the date up another year. Construction began in June 2021.

Marrissette attended Monday build sessions, since that worked best for the Big Grove staff, who were far busier on the typical Saturday times. She spent her final required hour of “sweat equity” cleaning up the house Monday night.

With her yearslong journey to acquire a home soon reaching its conclusion, Marrissette’s excited for her children: 11-year-old daughter Amira, whom she calls her “mini-me,” and a “sweet person who likes helping people,” and 9-year-old son Dillion, a “busybody” who loves all things math and basketball.

The home’s details are mostly her own design.

“I got to pick everything — my siding, my shutters, my floors, the color of the paint on my walls, the cabinets, the countertops, the light fixtures,” she said, many of them in her favorite shade of gray.

Her favorite feature, though, is the backyard. She’s never had one before.

“This experience is something I will remember forever,” she said.