Twenty-two homes in five days. That was the goal of an ambitious building project in Mishawaka, Indiana. Each year, the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project partners with Habitat for Humanity, to identify and then help build homes in communities in need.

This year, KeyBank donated $500,000 toward the project and worked alongside Mishawaka community members to construct a neighborhood of affordable homes.

“This project is not just about building a few new homes. It’s also about the creation of self-reliance and financial independence for these families,” said E. J. Burke, Key’s Head of Commercial Banking. “We know setting the path to financial wellness can put families in the position to thrive for generations to come.”

The Importance of a Place to Call Home

Mishawaka, a city of approximately 48,000 residents located just outside South Bend, was chosen for several reasons, including a significant need: Since 2001, the number of families living in poverty in Indiana has nearly doubled, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Mishawaka, 17.4% of the population live in poverty.

For low-income families, purchasing a home with a traditional mortgage is nearly impossible. With this project, however, families in need have the chance to own their own home – and get a new start. As part of the program, the families will make payments on their homes and attend classes that teach them how to better manage their money and make progress toward becoming more financially stable.

“It’s an experience you get only once in a lifetime – I feel like I won the lottery,” explained Ericka Santiesteban, speaking to the IndyStar about how much she was looking forward to finally having her own place to raise her three boys, ages 13, 12 and 3. “[The project] has set me up for success all the way through – for life, for how to be a strong homeowner. They teach you all of these skills that you don’t learn in school. Now I’ll be able to teach my own kids.”

Joining Forces to Build a Neighborhood

Members of KeyBank, including Burke and Northern Indiana Market President Mike Lugli, joined volunteers from the community – and across the country – to help build up the new neighborhood.

Soon-to-be homeowners participated too, like Jhunixa and Benito Salazar, helping build the homes they’ll soon be living in. The Salazars have worked hard to provide for their two children, ages 2 and 4, but have struggled financially, and would have difficulty qualifying for a traditional mortgage. Of the home-building experience, Jhunixa told the IndyStar. “It’s surreal, there’s all these people putting their lives on hold to come out here and to work alongside us. It’s amazing.”