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Kelly Cooper

Kelly Cooper, pictured Thursday in her office at the Market Square building in downtown Casper, is program manager for the Natrona County branch of Habitat for Humanity. The nonprofit's application period for affordable housing will be open through Feb. 2. 

Habitat for Humanity the Heart of Wyoming will begin its winter application process for home ownership on Jan. 2. The period runs through Feb. 2. Kelly Cooper has been program manager at Habitat for a short time, having worked with numerous other local nonprofits. We talked to her about the application process and the future of Habitat for Humanity locally.

What does your position entail? I oversee the application cycle and once the selection committee chooses someone, I help them through the process and I’m one of our two qualified loan originators on staff so I also do the mortgage process with the homeowner.

Tell us about the application process. It runs Jan. 2 to Feb. 2, and July is the next time. Because we have that new subdivision (Harris Crossing will have 13 Habitat homes), there’s definitely the potential that if we have qualified applicants, we would have more than one family this cycle.

Are there some basic application guidelines you can share? The main three criteria of Habitat for Humanity International are one, the ability to pay for an affordable mortgage, two, an actual, verifiable need for safe housing; and three, you have to demonstrate that you are willing to partner because homeowners help build their own house. In addition, you have to be willing and able to be an ambassador for the organization, which may mean attending events and maybe even speaking to groups.

And additional requirements? We do have income guidelines, anyone can come in and we will give them what those are; it’s based on the number of permanent occupants. We want our candidates to be successful, we look at how much is their income, including public assistance things, versus how much they have in debt, so it is income versus debt. If the ratio is too high, then that can be a problem because then you won’t be successful. We want people to succeed and thrive in their homes.

And you have a tip to the application process that seems simple? Very, very few people completely fill out the application and bring in all the required documents. You could be the perfect candidate but if you do not complete the application, you will be denied. It is a lot of work but it is worth it. From the minute you pick up an application, you know these are the documents. If you have time, start now to try to round up all this stuff, really truly if people could just complete the application itself our pool would be much larger.

How do people get an application? To request an application, please call Kelly Cooper, program manager, at 234-1348 or send an e-mail to kelly@heartofwyoming.org. You can also visit the Habitat for Humanity office at 232 E. Second St., Suite 204 on the second floor of the Market Square building.

What’s the status of Harris Crossing? We had a ground breaking for the first of 13 houses clustered in a neighborhood in November. It’s the first Habitat neighborhood instead of in-filling vacant lots throughout the city. We’re very excited about the idea, efficiency wise, it will make the building process more efficient.

How can the public participate? If you want to apply, call or email me soon. Sometimes people don’t measure their income the way we look at it, and they may be very eligible but not think they are. And as a community, we are always looking for volunteers. Yes, we build houses in the cold, but we also need volunteers who aren’t on the job sites, and they can call me about that as well.

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Follow community news editor Sally Ann Shurmur on Twitter @WYOSAS

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Community News Editor

Sally Ann Shurmur arrived at the Star-Tribune to cover sports two weeks after graduating from the University of Wyoming and now serves as community news editor. She was raised in Laramie and is a passionate fan of Cowboys football, food and family.

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