A Christmas present to live in

untitled-(65-of-69)A Kansas City family got Christmas early this year but it did not fit under a tree. In fact, it held one.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders called the family into a press gathering in the Ivanhoe neighborhood and told them they dropped something.

christmas-house-2Then he handed them a red ribbon tied to … “the keys to your new house.”

It is the sixth time the county has given away a previously vacant and crumbling house to a needy family. This time it went to James Ponder and Pamela St. John and their two sons and young granddaughter.

“It’s so surreal,” St. John said. “I’m so excited we’ll be able to take the next step in our lives and become homeowners.”

Soon they were at the renovated house on 35th Street, with its Christmas tree and presents and play station in the front yard.

St. John went room to room, praising them. The couple has lived in a rented house but before that were homeless for about four years, she said.

“This means we don’t have to live pillar to post anymore,” she said.

The house was provided by Habitat for Humanity, Kansas City. Connections to Success, a job training program, provided construction labor. Others donated materials and labor.

untitled-(68-of-69)The goal is to improve neighborhoods, help families and enhance the employment opportunities of the workers, said Brad Lambert, CEO of Connections to Success.

The formula would work on a wider scale, he said.

“We have a proven business model and 4,100 homes in land trust – imagine the opportunities,” he said.

Reporters asked St. John what she would do as soon as they left.

Her quick answer: “I’m going to hang pictures, that’s what I’m going to do.”

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