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It's Our Turn - Home is the nicest word there is

Tara Bitzan (left) and Lori Mork were part of the Hammering Hope Team that participated in the Build of Dreams. (Photo by Caroline Roers)

"Home is the nicest word there is."

That's one of my favorite lines in the Little House on the Prairie book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

The word "home" is like a warm, cozy blanket. To me, the word means comfort and security. It brings to mind years of happy memories of a place that offers peace and refuge and quiet from the rest of the world.

A solid house and a loving home are things I've taken for granted most of my life. I do believe that anyone can make a "home" anywhere - you don't have to own a house to make a loving place of comfort and security for your family.

Home isn't about the place as much as it is about what you make of where you're at and what you have. But think of how much easier it must be to make a home someplace that belongs to you - a house that you can truly call your own.

The Habitat for Humanity organization is making that dream come true for people all over the world - including here in Douglas County.

Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County (HFHDC) "exists as a nonprofit, Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing in the community and to make simple, decent shelter a matter of conscience and action."

A matter of conscience and action. Doesn't that make you feel a little guilty? Is there something that we should or could be doing that would help someone else realize that "home" truly is the nicest word there is?

Last year, when I heard HFHDC was organizing the Build of Dreams - the first complete Women Build home for the local affiliate - I decided to give it a try. I was in good company. Thirty teams (about 300 women) signed up to raise money to construct a home for a local family, and agreed to volunteer in the actual construction of the home.

Somehow I ended up being a team leader, and I'll admit there were times throughout the past several months that I wondered why I was doing this - I really didn't have the time for it.

I got my answer on Tuesday. It was the first day of the Women Build. I showed up with three of my team members to begin construction. We were welcomed by a bare concrete slab, piles of lumber and some skeptical but very patient men who were on hand to teach us and guide us through the day.

After eight hours of hammering nails and moving boards, we were exhausted. Our arms ached, we had sawdust in our hair, we were sweaty and sunburned. But when we looked at what we had done in just one day - framed an entire four-bedroom house and put up the exterior sheeting - we were energized in a new way. Where nothing had stood eight hours earlier, was a shell of what would very soon be a home.

The work is a long way from done. Teams of women will be on-site every day working through the entire construction process. The other half of my team will be going on-site in early August to do interior painting.

Working beside us throughout the day Tuesday was Darla Koloski - the woman who will own this home along with her children - Thalen, Brianna, Blake, Trent and Skylar.

There is no way you could be part of this project and not feel that something incredible is happening. Three hundred women stepped forward to help give Darla and her family what many of us take for granted - a house that she can make into a home.

I imagine there will be lots of happy memories for the Koloskis behind those walls. I am confident they will feel secure and comfortable and loved in this place. Welcome home.

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"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Tara Bitzan

Tara Bitzan is editor of the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter. A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School and earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies from Moorhead State University. She and her husband, Dennis, and their children live near Alexandria.

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