ERIE’s New Habitat House Brings the Wow Factor

March 31, 2009 - “Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.”

When Sean McMillen, age 10, first saw his very own bedroom in his family’s first home, he went into broken-record mode with a grin that wouldn’t quit.

The new home, built at 323 East 3rd St. by ERIE volunteers in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity and Sean’s family, isn’t just ERIE’s third Habitat home. It’s also the first home in Pennsylvania to earn the Institute for Business and Home Safety’s (IBHS) Fortified … for safer living® designation.

Last week, Sean and parents Ken and Pat Lindenberger, ERIE and IBHS representatives, and community leaders gathered to celebrate the home’s completion.

Super safe

Fortified is a code-plus construction program developed by IBHS, of which ERIE is a founding member. Homes boasting the Fortified designation are less vulnerable to natural disasters.

Here in Erie, Pa., the biggest weather-related risks include winter weather and high winds. Therefore, the Lindenbergers’ home was built with an extra-strong roof that’s strapped to the walls and foundation of the house (see photos). The straps connect all parts of the house — roof, walls, floors and foundation — together as a unit so they’re more likely to stay intact during high winds. The house also features ring shank nails (less likely to pull out), high-wind rated shingles (less likely to blow off), a secondary moisture barrier (less likely to let water in), and heat sensors to help detect fires before they start.

“You can fortify a house for not a lot of extra money,” said Julie Rochman, president and CEO of IBHS. “I hope the Lindenbergers enjoy this house for many, many, many years to come.”

Super strong

ERIE’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity is just one example of ERIE’s commitment to the communities we serve.

“By building this home, we helped a family realize the American dream of home ownership while supporting a cause that our Employees and Agents can — and do — take great pride in,” said Mike Zavasky, ERIE’s executive vice president, Insurance Operations, and IBHS board member, at the celebration event. “More than that, it allows us to contribute to a project that helps eliminate substandard housing, rebuild neighborhoods, and empower local residents.”

More than 90 ERIE volunteers worked side by side with representatives from Habitat and the new homeowners to make the home a reality.

“ERIE lives the best part of the insurance industry,” commented Rochman, “which is helping to keep people safe from claims in the first place.”

Super … bowl?

Sean already has plans: his new bedroom will be decorated with a football theme. He plans to focus on his favorite team — the Patriots — but concedes that the Steelers are a close second in his heart.

“It’s just so much more room,” he enthused, admiring the brightly painted walls. “Wow.”

Watch a local television news report about last week’s event.