Tahlequah Daily Press

July 5, 2013

Claim against Habitat proves to be untrue

By TEDDYE SNELL
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — A good Samaritan may have been misled recently by a homeowner seeking repairs.

Chuck Sneed is director of Helping Hands, an agency designed to help the elderly and disabled. Sneed contacted the Press Wednesday morning, saying an elderly couple who had a home built by Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity were in dire straits and that the home construction was substandard.

The home, owned by Milton and Jenny Mims, is near Moodys. But according to TAHFH Executive Director Linda Cheatham, the structure was not built by the agency’s volunteers, although extensive repairs were made to an existing building in 2008.

“Jenny’s daughter was a Talking Leaves Job Corps student, and at the time, we were giving a presentation at TLJC,” said Cheatham. “Jenny came and asked for our help.”

Cheatham said the family members had built the home themselves, and when TAHFH staff inspected the site, they found the house in major disrepair.

“It was just a square box with no windows,” said Cheatham. “They built this house and it was not well-built. The septic tank was not set correctly; they had no flushing toilets, electrical problems.”

According to documents kept by Cheatham, Habitat offered to provide home repairs, labor and supplies totaling $5,374.11. Cheatham said the homeowners agreed and paid a no-interest loan for $2,005.11, less than half the total cost.

“They repaid the loan at $60 a month for 32 months,” said Cheatham.

“We went out and brought the electric up to code, put some windows in, reset the septic tank so the water would drain correctly.”

Cheatham itemized donated items, including the cost. Items included three insulated windows at $150 each; a kitchen faucet for $25; a partial roll of house wrap at $70; two days of backhoe work at $500 per day; four loads of trash pickup at $24; and 180 hours of volunteer labor at $10 per hour.

Milton Mims told Sneed Habitat built the home, and initially told the Daily Press the same thing. But when questioned further, he changed his story.

“Well, I was building the house, but [TAHFH] just came in and took over,” said Mims.

Mims refused to answer further specific questions about the repairs, and also said he didn’t know how Sneed had become involved in the flap.

Cheatham said she was taken aback at the accusations.

“Isn’t that a shame. Since that time, we’ve completed 28 repair and painting projects, in addition to the 20 houses that we’ve built,” said Cheatham.

When Sneed was informed of the specifics provided by TAHFH, he, too, was dismayed.

“I’ve been lied to, then,” said Sneed.

Sneed had been so concerned for the family, in fact, that he had contacted other media outlets about their plight.

“I was told Habitat built that house from the ground up, and felt like this family needed help,” he said.