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KEARNS — Kearns was Utah's third largest city in the 1950s. But its population has steadily dropped the last few decades. Now, it's ready for a comeback as Salt Lake County teams up with organizations like Habitat for Humanity to bring families back to Kearns.
Next week Charles and Mellissa Sheya and their two children will move into a brand new home on Heath Drive in Kearns.
"We've met quite a few of the neighbors and they're all super nice," says Charles. There is also a park nearby and the Sheyas like the diversity of their new neighborhood.
The Sheyas' new Habitat for Humanity home will also accommodate their 4-year-old handicapped son. Parrin suffers from multiple seizures each day. Charles says, "To be able to wheel Parrin around and have him be with us at all, kind of all the time, is exciting."
Habitat was inspired by the Sheyas' story and by the effort to bring young families just like them back to Kearns.
Ed Blake, executive director of the Salt Lake Habitat for Humanity, says, "We thought that we could bring in a younger demographic, bring children back into the area."
The Sheyas' home is just part of the $3.2 million in new construction that Habitat will invest in Kearns over the next five years. The organization is ready to redevelop the property that used to house the Kearns American Ballpark.
"We purchased that 2 acres and we plan on building a very special home there. It's called the 'dollar fifty house,'" says Blake.
The energy-efficient homes will actually run on $1.50 a day. Twenty homes will be built where children played baseball for generations. And at another historic ballpark in Kearns, revitalization is complete.
Patrick Leary is the township executive for Salt Lake County. He took us on a tour of the old Bruce Field.
Every single one of the volunteers that have come out has made a difference in the world, in our lives, and there is just so much good in the world.
"Today, this field (old Bruce Field) has been rehabilitated and it will soon be home to soccer games, and lacrosse games, and rugby tournaments, and all kinds of things," says Leary.
The same kinds of activities used to pack families into Bruce Field on a summer evening. Now, Salt Lake County's Office of Township Services is putting Kearns back in the game.
"I think the communities have had a hunger for the attention that my office is able to bring them," says Leary.
While the county and organizations like Habitat team up to support Kearns, they'll also showcase the community to a network of volunteers. Blake says, "During the course of our building while we're here, when you really think about it, thousands of people will visit Kearns as a guest of Habitat for Humanity."
Guests like Cheryl Vincent, a Habitat volunteer from ARUP Laboratories who worked on the Sheya home, who got a firsthand experience in building up people and places. "I learned the power of teamwork, obviously, and coming together to make something successful for the community," says Vincent.
Charles Sheya and his family could not be more grateful for all the help and attention from Habitat, its volunteers, and the Kearns community.
"Every single one of the volunteers that have come out has made a difference in the world, in our lives, and there is just so much good in the world," says Sheya.
It shouldn't be too long now before more families discover the new and improved Kearns.
"We'll bring our families here, there's great schools here. There's everything here that Habitat would see as a great environment," says Blake.
The Sheya home will be dedicated at 5:30 p.m. next Monday, June 29, at 5065 S. Heath Drive (about 5000 West) in Kearns.
Contributing: Keith McCord