Local Build Feb. 14, 2020

First comes love, then comes Habitat for Humanity…and a marriage proposal!

Zakk proposing to Ashley. Credit: Bryan Davies Photography.

It was a beautiful sunny summer’s day last August when friends, family and community partners gathered at a home dedication in Stayner, Ontario to welcome two new Habitat homeowners.

What very few in the audience were expecting was that one of those Habitat homeowners, Zakk, would turn this home dedication into a surprise proposal for his girlfriend of almost 10 years, Ashley.

Ashley and Zakk met a decade ago through mutual friends and have been together ever since. Their son, Maxwell, is almost 3 years old. Finding decent and affordable housing in their community was an on-going challenge, frequently interrupted by landlords deciding to sell, meaning they had to pack up and move multiple times. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity South Georgian Bay meant they could stay in the community, close to their family in a decent and affordable home – paying an affordable mortgage that doesn’t exceed 30 percent of their income.

By the time their home was built, Zakk and Ashley had volunteered 500 hours as part of their partnership with Habitat South Georgian Bay. Zakk put many of his hours in working alongside volunteers building the home they would buy, while Ashley volunteered at the local Habitat ReStore. They did all this while juggling two full-time jobs and caring for their young son.

“We’re thankful…without Habitat, we don’t know where we’d be,” said Ashley. “I didn’t realize how much work goes into a house.”

The home dedication in August was an opportunity to celebrate all the hard work that had gone into building the homes with volunteers, Habitat staff, donors and the community before moving in September. Ashley had written out a speech ahead of time. What she didn’t know was that Zakk had written a speech too – just a very different kind of speech. Zakk had planned his proposal in advance. While many members of their families and friends were already going to be at the event, Zakk made sure that family from out of town had an extra incentive to drive in, although sworn to secrecy.

Ashley, Zakk and son Maxwell celebrate buying a Habitat home. Credit: Bryan Davies Photography.

When Zakk went down on one knee, Ashley cried. But, she points out, she was already crying because the home dedication was such an emotional event for her. In his proposal, Zakk told Ashley that she is his best friend, a good mother to their son, and he couldn’t imagine spending his life with anybody else. Neither can she.

As for wedding planning, it’s already underway.

“My plan is 2021. We’ll see how that works out. Weddings are expensive!” says Ashley. “I want a fall wedding with fall colours, but nothing big.” Their nieces will be flower girls, and son Maxwell already has a very important role at his parent’s wedding: ring bearer.

Congratulations to Ashley and Zakk on their engagement, and becoming Habitat homeowners!