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โ€” With a school band playing festive music behind them, six families on the city's east side were ushered into their new homes Friday, just in time for the holidays.

Carrying a red banner that read "Home for Christmas," Erica Ferguson and owners of five other homes walked happily to claim the new residences they helped build with their own hands.

The homes are part of a building project by Habitat for Humanity, an international nonprofit ecumenical Christian organization that brings together families, corporate donors, volunteers and others to build homes for families and individuals.

"It feels wonderful," said Ferguson as she carried her 2-year-old daughter, Olivia, to survey the four-bedroom home she helped construct on Maryland Street near Mack and Alter Road in the city's Morningside neighborhood. "What a blessing."

Ferguson's 8-year-old daughter, Arieona, looked around the 1,200-square-foot ranch and quickly picked out a bedroom of her own.

"This is my room," said Arieona, adding she would like for her mom to decorate her room in peach.

The day was a celebration of the hard physical work the families put into the homes. Erica Ferguson, a pharmacy technician at a local hospital, helped put up siding and insulation. She also cut space for the windows and installed insulation in the basement. Ferguson's home, like the others, was sponsored by a corporate donor โ€” in her case, General Motors.

Habitat homeowners are required to put in about 250 hours of "sweat equity" in their new homes. Prospective homeowners must be employed, have good credit and be able to make mortgage payments.

Six yellow Penske moving trucks lined Maryland Street Friday as families begin moving in their belongings and furniture.

Arturo and Tanya Eason and their five children not only worked with Habitat for Humanity volunteers to build their home, but also helped other neighbors.

"We have moved every two years," said the couple. "I think that we will be happier in a new home rather than living in an apartment."

Habitat for Humanity Detroit Executive Director Vincent Tilford said the project on Maryland Street is an effort to "build communities and partnerships."

Tilford said the homes are environmentally sound and costs about $1,200 a year to heat. Habitat Detroit houses range from $65,000 to $80,000, according to the organization.

Since 1986, the Habitat for Humanity Detroit has rehabilitated and/or built new homes through partnerships with over 300 families.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

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