SIDNEY — Marie Strunk was living in a car, battling addiction and feeling like the world had given up on her.
“That was a short period, but it’s still bad,” the Sidney resident said. “Not even caring if I lived anymore. Not caring about anything anymore.
“It seemed, too, that everybody had probably given up on me, but they hadn’t. Because of my family, friends and a great mentor, I’m here today doing better than I ever have.”
Strunk – now three-and-a-half years sober — has worked to overcome her battles with drugs and alcohol, maintain a job, regain custody of her children and help others struggling with addiction. And on Tuesday, she took another step toward a life of structure and stability with the groundbreaking for a Habitat for Humanity home that is being built for her and her three children – Gaven Griffith, 20, Nevaeh Jones, 14, and Alex Ruiz, 10.
“The most important thing is structure and stability for them so that they have a good upbringing,” Strunk said. “The same things that my parents gave me that I had once lost. I had lost all of that.”
Habitat for Humanity of Miami and Shelby Counties is organizing the construction of Strunk’s new house at 737 Broadway Ave. in Sidney. The project is being financed by Clopay Corp., North America’s largest residential garage door manufacturer, which donated $100,000 for the project.
“We’re a building materials company, and what better way to give back to the community,” Clopay President Steve Lynch said.
After three years of discussions with Habitat for Humanity, Clopay committed earlier this year to finance a build. It wasn’t until August that the company discovered one of its employees, Strunk, would be the recipient.
“We’re thrilled about that,” Lynch said. “Obviously it didn’t come easy. She’s put a lot of time and effort with Habitat for Humanity, working well over 100 hours at the store as well as other opportunities within Habitat for Humanity.”
Strunk has battled drug and alcohol addiction for most of her life. She was sleeping in a car in her parents’ driveway three-and-a-half years ago before she started on the path toward recovery.
“My addiction had gotten the best of me,” she said. “I lost myself, my kids, my job. I went to jail.
“I forgot who I was, the person that I wanted to be.”
Determined to change her life, Strunk started working two jobs, attending counseling, attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings and attending church.
“I had to really concentrate on myself and love myself,” she said. “And love myself enough to stand up and then be able to get my kids back and live a good life.”
Bill Horstman, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Miami and Shelby Counties, said Strunk has been a fantastic partner to work with since she applied for assistance in February 2018. She’s contributed to Habitat’s efforts and earned the opportunity to receive assistance from the organization.
“She’s ready to move on in her life, and we hope this will be a big boost to that,” Horstman said.
To be eligible for a Habitat for Humanity home, people have to apply and fit criteria including earning 30-60% of the average median income for the Miami and Shelby county area. They also need to contribute to Habitat’s work and be able to pay a mortgage.
“The misconception is that we give houses away. We don’t,” Horstman said. “She will become a homeowner. She will pay a mortgage. She will contribute to the economic development of this area and this town.”
Habitat for Humanity also needs funding to support its projects. Clopay, which has facilities in Russia and Troy, will contribute $100,000 plus garage and entry doors for Strunk’s house.
“I can’t wait to tell my kids I may have made that garage door,” said Strunk, who has worked weekends at Clopay for almost three years, has worked at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Troy for the past year and is a certified peer supporter through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Also contributing to the project will be Dave Nagel Excavating; Ferguson Construction; Spring Creek Corp.; R.F. Woehrmyer Concrete Construction; Lochard Heating, Plumbing & Air Conditioning; Area Energy & Electric; Schockman Lumber; Rindler Truss; and Lowe’s.
“These corporations that I’ve been working with in both counties, Miami and Shelby, have just been fantastic,” Horstman said.
The local Habitat for Humanity usually builds one or two houses a year in Miami and Shelby counties. More often it provides repair services such as home preservation, critical home repair, weatherization and special projects.
Construction of Strunk’s house is scheduled to begin next week and should be finished in April 2021.
“I never felt that I’d be a homeowner one day, but I’ve definitely done the work to get here,” said Strunk, who hopes her story will give others hope.