Habitat for Humanity steps up to new levels

By Larry Bogard

Special to The SUN

Photo courtesy Cindi Galabota Would you like to see a Restore open in Pagosa? Help Habitat for Humanity make the Restore a reality. Call 264-6960. Photo courtesy Cindi Galabota
Would you like to see a Restore open in Pagosa? Help Habitat for Humanity make the Restore a reality. Call 264-6960.

Since moving to Pagosa three years ago, my wife and I have not heard a lot from Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County, but it is now time for this wonderful organization to be recognized for its accomplishments and to be utilized in a greater way.

Habitat just completed its 23rd home in Archuleta County and is involved with three repair projects.

The mission of Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County, Inc. is to build confidence, strong ties between compassionate volunteers and new homeowners, a richer community through shared hope and common effort amongst caring people of all faiths, and simple, decent houses for families in need.

With the crashing economy and impending governmental changes, Habitat is in need now more than ever before. The organization serves low-income families who have annual incomes between 30 and 60 percent of the average median income in Archuleta County and who have demonstrated a need for better shelter. They usually cannot afford a conventional loan, but are able to make modest monthly payments. As part of their partnership, they complete sweat equity through the construction of their or another partner’s home. Habitat works in partnership with businesses, churches, organizations, and individuals who believe in their cause. Volunteers from all backgrounds share their time and expertise. They also utilize Care-A-Vanners, volunteers who travel in RVs from all over the country, who spend two weeks at a time serving our community, families in need.

By doing so, Habitat builds a stronger community — people come together to build and repair houses, neighborhoods are improved, and people of all backgrounds work for a common cause. In a study by the Region 9 Economic district, data showed the average livable wage for a family of four renting a three bedroom place is approximately $57,533 annually, yet 40 percent of Archuleta County jobs only pay approximately $17,000. As well, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 24 percent of children under age 18 in Archuleta County live below poverty level, compared to the Colorado average of 17 percent. Consequently, our community needs help from people like Habitat to offset high costs of living here.

Another program from Habitat for Humanity is the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Home Repair Program. This program is aimed at interior/exterior home renovations for low-income homeowners in need. It offers painting, carpentry, weather stripping and other minor repairs. NHN helps low-income homeowners impaired by age, disability and family circumstances, and who struggle to maintain their homes, reclaim their homes with pride and dignity. NHN is a companion to Habitat’s core services, enabling the organization to serve more families and increase opportunities for volunteers and sponsors. Volunteer labor and donated materials help keep the costs low. A no-interest loan is made to the homeowner to cover the costs of the repair and the payments are used to help NHN serve others in need. Neighbors Helping Neighbors ensures that families can live in safe and well maintained homes; it’s designed to revitalize the appearance of our community and preserve affordable housing stock.

Here’s some trivia about Habitat for Humanity that you might not know: they do not give away homes to the poor, rather they build homes alongside people in need who want to invest in their future. They do not discriminate for race, color, sex, religion, handicap, family status and national origin. Habitat homeowners generally work at low wage jobs and are simply trying to break out of the cycle of poverty. Yes, Habitat for Humanity is unashamedly a Christian ministry, but the homeowners are chosen without regard to race, creed, or nationality with the belief that God’s love extends to all. Habitat welcomes volunteers from all faiths — or no faith — who actively embrace the goal of eliminating poverty housing from the world. In fact, Habitat works in more than 1,500 affiliates in the United States with more than 80 national organizations around the world.

Habitat is not an arm of the government — it’s an independent, non-profit 501(c)3, ecumenical and nondenominational, Christian housing ministry. Donations are tax-deductible. It was not started by Jimmy Carter, however, he has been a supporter and volunteer since 1984. In fact, he leads an annual Jimmy Carter Work Project to build houses and raise awareness of the need for affordable housing. Habitat for Humanity was actually started in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller. The organization works 365 days a year worldwide.

The latest endeavor for Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County is to open a Restore in Pagosa Springs. A Restore is a non-profit home improvement store and donation center that sells new and gently used building materials, appliances and furniture to the public at a fraction of the retail price. Proceeds are used to build and repair homes and hope right in our community.

The Restores in Durango, Buena Vista and elsewhere were a Godsend for my wife and me, attempting to reclaim our lives after losing our career, income and home in the Front Range. Thanks to the same spirit of help from our church, neighbors, friends and Restores, we are finishing our new home in Aspen Springs, mortgage free. Without God, Restores and generous people, we’d be ruined.

Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County is currently pursuing a location for a Restore facility. To help keep expenses low, especially during the first few years of operation, they are searching for a sponsor who would consider discounting or donating the monthly rent. An anonymous donor graciously offered to donate a truck if a Restore opens. However, HfHAC cannot currently accept material, in-kind contributions or donations until they find a building that can hold more items, as their storage units are full. They are also looking for volunteers to help shape the development of the Restore. The goal is to meet the increasing needs of those seeking to better their lives and improve our community with nice homes to enjoy.

Former president George Bush said, “Everyone should have their own home in America.” Habitat for Humanity is one great source to do just that.

Habitat needs your help to make the Restore a reality. If you would like to learn more about Habitat for Humanity, the Restore initiative or other programs offered by this incredible organization, contact Cindi Galabota at the Habitat office at 264-6960 or by e-mail at habitatarchuleta@gmail.com.