JACKSON CENTER — Kara Mullen and her family, of Jackson Center, have done something for Christmas that they’ve never been able to do before: they put up decorations on their front porch.
Mullen and her children, Jaden Rice, 15, Delaney Rice, 12, and Sailor Mullen, 2, didn’t have a front porch until they moved into a house built by Habitat for Humanity of Miami and Shelby Counties in August. They had been living in an apartment in Sidney. Their house was the first Habitat project in Shelby County since the Miami and Shelby County organizations merged two years ago.
“We got to put lights up. We’ve never had outdoor lights,” Mullen said. “We decorated the porch.”
The family decorated their Christmas tree really early because the children were excited.
The new house has inspired the start of new traditions for them.
“The kids want a memory tree. We went shopping and everyone picked one ornament that described their year. I got a house,” Mullen said with a big smile. “This time last year, I was just finding out that I was getting the (Habitat) house. It still makes me emotional.”
Jaden, on the soccer team at Fairlawn High School, selected a soccer ball ornament. Cheerleader Delaney chose a tiny megaphone and Sailor picked out a cookie.
“We wrote the year on them all. We decided we’re going to start collecting memories,” Mullen said. The family also talked about how they want to celebrate Christmas. They’re a group who make decisions together. Gift-opening will be at Mullen’s brother’s house this year. The siblings take turns hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations and 2017 was a Thanksgiving year for Mullen.
“My sister-in-law had not seen the house. Everybody got to see the house,” she said.
But what to do for Christmas?
“Our Christmas Eve tradition will be to make homemade cookies for Santa, get a Christmas movie and do the pajama thing and wait for Santa,” Mullen said.
When the jolly old elf arrives, he will visit a house built in record time, thanks to financial and volunteer support by Airstream Inc., Hoying and Hoying Builders Inc. and some 45 other area businesses. Major funding, besides the $80,000 Airstream contribution, came from C.H.I.P. Shelby County and Bill and Sandy Johnjulio-Alumapalooza. Construction began in May and what usually takes about 18 months to complete was done in four.
“It felt like home pretty quick. I think we put so much love and so much work into it, it felt like home pretty quick,” Mullen said. The 1,320-square-foot, four-bedroom home has two bathrooms and a one-car garage.
Its size is one of the things Delaney likes best about her new home. It’s a little smaller than the two-story apartment was.
“It’s easier for me to get to the kitchen,” she laughed.
“It feels a little homier,” Mullen said. Delaney also appreciates how quiet the house is.
Jaden enjoys shooting hoops in the driveway every evening. And Sailor is quickly growing from baby to toddler in what she’ll always think of as home.
“She went from sharing a bedroom with me to her own room. She’s potty trained. It’s been leaps and bounds,” Mullen said.
The family were surprised by how quickly the village of Jackson Center welcomed them as residents.
“It’s brought back a sense of community we didn’t have in Sidney because Sidney is bigger,” Mullen said. “I’ve got great neighbors.”
And, according to Jaden, those neighbors have great holiday lights.
“It’s a Christmas light war,” Mullen admitted as she looked toward future holidays in her family’s very own home. “We’ll join in next year,” she said.