Habitat for Humanity families work, wait | SteamboatToday.com

Habitat for Humanity families work, wait

Susan Cunningham

When Jessica and Walter Copeland’s 4-year-old daughter sees the family’s almost-finished home, she can’t help yelling out, “That’s our new house.”

When she’s at the home, she’ll run around saying, “This is my room, this is my bathroom,” Jessica Copeland said. To that, Jessica simply replies, “That’s right, pretty soon.”

The Copelands, who also have a 1-year-old son, and Ellen Clare, who has a son and daughter, have been waiting for a year and a half for their new homes to be finished.

Both families were chosen by Routt County Habitat for Humanity to for the opportunity to purchase a truly affordable home in Steamboat Springs.

That means a home that costs $120,000. The families will make interest-free monthly payments of about $400.

Habitat for Humanity has been building the West End Village duplex, with a side for each family, since the summer of 2003. It is the second structure the group has built since it formed in 1998.

Because of various setbacks, the group’s expected completion date has been pushed back, said Jim Ballard, treasurer and former president of the group.

Habitat members hoped the homes would be finished in the summer, he said.

Jessica Copeland said her initial impression was that the homes would be ready to move in by Jan. 14. The wait has been a challenge, but is without a doubt, worth it, she said.

“Other than being beyond ready to move in, we’re completely excited,” Copeland said. “For families like ours, it’s a huge deal that we get to have our own house. I’m grateful to anybody who has ever come out or donated materials.”

Clare, who is a draftsperson in Steamboat, said that with her experience in the construction business, she knew the home could take longer than expected.

“I’m excited. I’m being patient,” Clare said.

To build affordable homes, Habitat must rely on donated time and materials. There are many businesses in town that sold materials to Habitat at cost or with a significant discount, as well as expert volunteers who did their work for free, Ballard said.

There also have been loads of volunteers, most of who came in the summer and fall of 2003.

Since then, it has been harder to round up enough people, Ballard said.

In January, Habitat had a change in its construction manager, and with volunteer efforts waning, the new construction manager has done a lot of the work on his own and with the help of the families getting the homes.

This summer, a few months also were lost because of waits for plumbing and electrical work to get finished, as volunteer plumbers and electricians had to open time in their working schedules.

“It has been frustrating, but it is good to see the finished product and good to be getting close to the end,” Ballard said.

Habitat’s first home was built in Pioneer Ridge in 2001.

All families living in a home are required to follow Habitat rules. First, they have to put 350 hours of sweat equity into building the home, and they have to live in the house until they’re ready to leave, at which time they sell it back to Habitat at a controlled price. From there, Habitat sells the home to another family.

The initial $120,000 price tag is about how much the home has cost, including land, materials and specialty work, Ballard said.

Habitat owns two other duplex lots across the alley from the current home and is planning to start building the next duplex in the spring. It needs to raise about $150,000 to do so and is kicking off a fund-raising campaign this winter to ask for donations and sell Safeway gift cards. For each $100 gift card sold, the group makes $5.

What’s most important about building the next homes, he said, is that it means Routt County Habitat for Humanity will have enough homes to start selling the mortgages on those homes to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority and receive the full value in cash, interest free. That provides Habitat with cash to build other homes, Ballard said.

When Habitat is ready to build its next homes, Jessica Copeland said she thinks it would be most helpful if a few families donated one weekend day a month to the project, providing a steady source of volunteers.

The Copelands plan to be one of those families.

“We know what it feels like to have to wait, so we’ll be there through the whole thing,” Jessica said.

Working on a home with someone new provides opportunities to meet people and share something special with them.

“It touches a part of your heart, and you want to keep doing it,” Jessica said.

“We’re all connected in one way or another, and that’s how people have to look at it,” she said. “It may not be their house, but in some way, shape or form, we’re connecting.”

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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