Photo courtesy Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County
Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County Executive Director Lori Henrickson, right, poses with homeowner Robin. Henrickson partially retired on Sept. 1, but will continue with the organization on a part-time basis until the fall of 2024.
By Leah Ballard | Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County
It has been a banner build year for Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County as we move through our first time ever building three homes in one year.
As summer winds down, we’re still busy buttoning up all three modular homes, and finishing their stick-built detached garages. All three build sites are in the Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association, on Sam Houston Avenue and Ranger Park Drive.
This fall holds some big changes for our small rural affiliate; one might even call it growing pains. We welcomed three new directors to our board: Kathy Pfister, Steve Sutton and Mike Garding. The new members are getting acquainted with all the intricacies of governing a nonprofit construction company with the help of existing board members renewing their terms in office. Staff leadership will also shift.
Many in this community have commented on the strides this organization has taken over the past few years, Mayor Shari Pierce among them. That progress is due in large part to our Executive Director, Lori Henricksen, who partially retired on the first of September.
When Henricksen came on the scene, Habitat Archuleta was building roughly one home per year, which it has done for the past 29 years. Henricksen, and our former board president, Paul Lehman, forged the plan to build more, faster.
Habitat Archuleta board and staff went around and around trying to figure out how this small office could build three homes in one year. It would take more volunteers, it would take more time from subcontractors, and it would take more staff.
Henricksen is always quick to mention that the whole idea gained traction when a county commissioner called to ask if Habitat was interested in taking on some vacant tax lien lots in 2019, with the expectation being that the land be developed, homes built and sold for a cost that members of our workforce could afford.
With that invitation, Lehman drove the unimproved county roads, and compared each site to the list of tax liens we could choose from. The cost of development increases significantly the farther a parcel is from existing utilities and roads. Lehman needed to be wise on these decisions, because Habitat would begin paying taxes, property owners association dues and utility access fees required to hold these vacant lots until construction could be completed.
Henricksen and the board at that time also set the standard that Habitat homes would have rooftop solar panels for long-term affordability.
Its difficult to brag about our executive director, who is always so quick to pass credit where else its due — utility companies, local government, excavators and volunteers.
But, according to Lehman, it was Henricksen who forged those relationships. It was Henricksen who gave our county commissioners the confidence to trust this organization with some of our county’s American Rescue Plan Act, also commonly known as ARPA, funds in 2021.
Prior to Henricksen’s tenure this affiliate went through a lot of leadership transition.
County Commissioner Warren Brown mentioned, “Lori seemed to be the missing part of the puzzle.”
Henricksen helped to build our relationship with our property owners association, and our partners who take care of insulation, and sealing the crawl space.
It was Henricksen, with help from the experts on our board, pulling the whole circus together.
“She’s the one that lifted Habitat up,” said Lehman.
Our community isn’t the only place where people have taken notice. Henricksen was invited to join the board of directors for our state organization, Habitat for Humanity of Colorado.
Habitat Colorado Executive Director Karen Kallenberg said, “Lori is passionate about the mission, and it shows in everything she does.”
She added, “Lori would look at an obstacle, and create an innovative solution.”
Kallenberg even credited Henricksen for pushing the idea of a simpler construction financing for Habitat affiliates across the state. The Revolving Loan Fund, spearheaded by Habitat Colorado and largely funded by Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, or CHFA, has made a huge impact in this community. Complicated construction financing would have otherwise been a barrier to tripling our capacity here in Pagosa Springs.
With all of those impacts as part of her legacy, Henricksen will continue at Habitat Archuleta in a part-time capacity until the fall of 2024. She will continue coordinating outreach efforts throughout the community and across the state.