CRESTVIEW — Habitat for Humanity in Okaloosa County celebrated the completion of its 59th home with a dedication ceremony Dec. 18 in Crestview.
The four-bedroom, two-bath house on South Savage Street belongs to Joshua and Jessica Ruckowski and their three children, Lola, Ledger, their oldest son, and Lawson, their youngest.
While the house was mostly bare and the lawn wasn't completely installed Monday, the Ruckowskis should be living in it by Christmas, according to Habitat Okaloosa's Community Outreach director, Melissa Litscher.
Allen Turner of Allen Turner Chevrolet and company employees presented a sponsorship check for the home during the ceremony. The event included remarks from Turner, city officials, construction managers Bob Hauge and Bill Prescott, and Joshua Ruckowski. Presentation of household gifts and a Bible, a benediction and invitation to tour the home afterward were part of the ceremony as well.
Over 500 volunteers constructed the home. The new homeowners also had a hand in the building of it and their next-door neighbor's Habitat home.
"It was amazing, we learned a lot," Joshua Ruckowski said. "We pretty much did some of everything — framing … she worked on electrical. I worked on roofing, floor, paint, everything."
He said the process of applying doesn't hurt.
"I came in here blind. Everything was a process. What this did for our family, we want to do for others. Shopping at the ReStore helped our family a lot."
He said people who want to be a part of what Habitat does for the community can go to the Habitat website to volunteer.
Jessica Ruckowski said the dedication ceremony felt "unreal, surreal maybe even," because she never thought it would happen. To others considering going through Habitat to purchase a home, she said, "Do it! There will be no better feeling in the world when it's done."
In the program for the dedication ceremony, Joshua Ruckowski stated, "What this means for our family is that we will have showers that won't leak, paint that's not peeling, and windows that actually lock and the kids will each have a place to make their own.
"We would like to thank each and everyone of the volunteers that took the time out of their days to help us make this happen. We have met many great people."
The Ruckowski family finished the ceremony with a view of the future.
They invited the first Okaloosa Habitat for Humanity participant, Pheba Bush of Fort Walton Beach, to set fire to her mortgage in their driveway. Once the ashes cooled, they were put into a house-shaped box and presented to Bush as a keepsake.
When asked how she felt about the mortgage's completion, Bush said she was a little in shock, but it felt good.
"It really hasn't dawned on me yet, but next month when I get ready to have that payment, I won't have it to make," she said.