Habitat for humanity provides a helping hand in tough times

Despite the suspension of volunteer activities due to Covid-19, building projects and other preparations go on for Habitat for Humanity.

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Mona Strege and Randy Hansen pick up foam board insulation on March 25 that was used to keep the ground from freezing on the foundation of a Habitat for Humanity home that is being built on Woodland Park Drive in Alexandria. Habitat staff wanted to get a jump start on the building season, which is still underway despite a suspension of volunteer help. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

At a time when people are encouraged or even required to stay at home, one organization is still hard at work helping to ensure that more people have the opportunity to own a home of their own.

“A home is one of those basic needs,” said Lori Anderson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County. “When you get that met, your whole life stabilizes.”

Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County has built or remodeled 92 homes in the county since the organization began in 1997. But this year is a little different because of the coronavirus. Due to concerns about COVID-19, all volunteer work is currently suspended.

Currently, the organization has three home buyers approved and contractors are beginning work on a home that was started last year, Anderson said.

“We’re moving forward,” she said. “This year we plan to build three to four homes.”


However, Anderson emphasized that the organization’s greatest need right now is funding. It has about a $200,000 gap in funds available, she said. A large portion of that is due to loss of revenue from having to temporarily close the ReStore, which sells donated furniture, appliances and building materials.

Another part of the organization’s funding shortfall is due to having to postpone two of its important fundraising events. The Hard Hat Breakfast, which normally occurs in May, and the Home is the Key Luncheon, which usually occurs in April, have both been rescheduled for September.

“Right now, we want to be safe,” Anderson said.

But in the meantime, building and other preparations go on for Habitat for Humanity.

To help replace some of those funds, Habitat for Humanity has started a Hammers of Hope Fund on its website at . Anderson stressed that the organization needs to raise $200,000 by June 30 in order to keep serving families

“The best way that people can help us is by making a financial gift to the Hammers of Hope Fund to address the funding gap posed by COVID-19,” she said.

A jump-start to the season

Several Habitat staff members met at the Thrivent Faith Builds home on Woodland Park Drive in Alexandria recently to remove foam insulation board from what will become the floor of a new home. The foam board was placed on the ground last year after the foundation was installed, with the purpose of keeping the ground from freezing.

Despite a lack of volunteers at this time due to COVID-19, the Habitat team wanted to take action to get the building season underway.


“This allows us to get a jump-start on the build season,” said Sara Gronholz, Habitat’s community engagement coordinator.

Randy Hansen, construction manager for Habitat for Humanity, agreed that it was important for the team to take action in a time when many things are being put on hold.

“There’s still a lot of good going on,” he said. “We just don’t think about it sometimes.”

The next step, Hansen said, is for contractors to install plumbing and the in-floor heating before the concrete floor is poured. Because most contractors are classified as essential, they are able to continue working during the state’s stay-at-home order.

Anderson explained that since they are not currently able to use volunteers, Hansen and construction coordinator Aaron Johnson are in the process of building headers and jambs for framing windows and doors. They will probably be framing and enclosing the home before volunteers are able to return and finish it, she said.

“We’ll continue to build so we can say ‘welcome home’ to more families,” Anderson said.

Providing a hand-up

Anderson noted that one of the myths about Habitat for Humanity is that people get homes for free. In reality, Habitat homes are purchased with an affordable mortgage. The difference is that Habitat for Humanity serves people with a need for housing who would be unable to qualify for a traditional loan, she said, and they receive mentoring and help with budgets and other details of homeownership.

“We want to set them up for success,” Anderson said. “We’re a hand-up not a handout.”


Home buyers also contribute 200 hours of sweat equity, with about half of that on their future home.

Since Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976, it has since built or repaired more than one million homes worldwide.

In addition to its homeownership program, Habitat for Humanity also has an Aging in Place program that helps older homeowners with repairs and improvements so they can remain in their homes as long as possible.

“With the impact of the coronavirus, the need for affordable housing will be even greater,” Anderson added. “They’re going to need a hand-up now more than ever.”

Lowell Anderson has been a photographer and writer at the Echo Press since 1998.
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