As Jacob Leininger explains it, in a way, his journey to become the new lead contractor for Habitat for Humanity (HFH) of Williams County this year actually began 20 years ago.
It was 1999 and Leininger was operating a chainsaw during a job when suddenly “everything kind of went dark” as he took a tumble. He woke up with a huge gash that split open his right arm from the chainsaw blade, which, miraculously, just grazed his right cheek.
The physical scars are still visible. But Leininger said the experience strengthened him spiritually.
Leininger, 37, of Waldron, Michigan, said he was a regular at church prior to the accident, but the near-death experience seemed to deepen his faith.
“It was the accident. After that, I just seemed to be stronger (in faith). It’s put me in this position,” he said in an interview last week with his wife, Jenny, and Mary Ann Peters, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Williams County, at the latest HFH house build project in Bryan.
“This position” is the lead contractor for Habitat for Humanity of Williams County and for the 1,100-square-foot HFH house currently under construction at 615 E. Bryan St. It’s the 33rd Habitat home in the 27 years of Habitat’s existence as a local organization, Peters said.
Leininger, a contractor who also farms 350 acres, takes the lead in bringing the home to completion, including overseeing a small army of volunteers who help out during the monthly HFH building blitzes.
The most recent blitz build Aug. 3 included Jenny, their three children, and both their fathers, along with the HFH partner family for this house, Lisa Miller and her two children, Tre and Zahira. The next blitz build is Saturday, Sept. 7, Peters said.
Leininger takes over for Marc Tingle, who served as HFH lead contractor for five years, until health issues forced Tingle to step back.
Peters said HFH is in Tingle’s debt for his valuable service to the organization, which describes itself as “a global nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing organization” that builds “strength, stability and self-reliance, in partnership with people and families in need of a decent and affordable home.”
Now, Peters said HFH of Williams County is grateful to have the services of Leininger, who is a member with his family of Lake View United Brethren Church, of Camden, Michigan, which Peters noted has been a key partner with HFH of Williams County for the past several years.
“Marc did a phenomenal job the last five years. When he said he would have to step back, we wondered what we were going to do. (Lead contractor) is a unique job and we were hoping it would be someone in the construction business, but also someone who would be guided by God’s hands,” said Peters, adding that HFH was familiar with the Leiningers from their help over the past few years in building homes in Pioneer and Bryan.
“We weren’t certain we would find someone who would put their heart into it, but the illness to Marc opened up the opportunity for the Leiningers, and what a blessing it’s been,” Peters said.
Leininger said he and Jenny and their family enjoyed helping HFH over the past several years so assuming the lead contractor position came at the right time.
“I just kind of stepped out on faith that I was ready, and within a few days they contacted me to take the position,” he said.