When Habitat for Humanity builds a house, it usually is done on the site where that house is going to stand.

But that's not how it was done Wednesday at Brenton Engineering in Alexandria, when employees built walls for a new home in the company's parking lot.

"It's hard to have people leave and go and travel off-site, so we are doing something different, where Habitat is bringing the materials to us," said Brenton office administrator Jennifer Anderson. "We've scheduled different shifts to give all of our employees an opportunity to sign up for a shift, go out and work on walls."

Habitat for Humanity construction manager Randy Hanson shows Brenton employees the blueprints for the the home that they helped build on Wednesday. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)
Habitat for Humanity construction manager Randy Hanson shows Brenton employees the blueprints for the the home that they helped build on Wednesday. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

This marks the first time Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County has engaged in a project in this fashion.

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"This is a pretty exciting model that we may be able to repeat in the future with other companies," said Habitat's executive director, Lori Anderson.

Anderson said credit for the idea should go to donor relations coordinator Mary Gorghuber.

"It's a big event," Anderson said.

Materials for the project were dropped off at Brenton Tuesday afternoon, and shifts started at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, lasting throughout the day. Shifts lasted one hour, and were staffed by eight Brenton employees at a time.

"We're super excited," Anderson said. "(Habitat is) such a great organization, and they really do so much in this community. It's great that they come to us and allow Brenton employees that opportunity to donate their time and their talents to help with this construction."

Katie McMillan of Miltona stands next to one of the walls of her future home during a Habitat for Humanity build at Brenton In Carlos Wednesday. She helped build walls during the event and will also help out during the rest of the construction of the home. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)
Katie McMillan of Miltona stands next to one of the walls of her future home during a Habitat for Humanity build at Brenton In Carlos Wednesday. She helped build walls during the event and will also help out during the rest of the construction of the home. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

Also on hand Wednesday was future homeowner Katie McMillan, who will be living in the home for which the walls were being built.

"It's amazing," McMillan said. "It's a good experience, something I never thought I'd have."

McMillan and her three children have spent the past five years living with McMillan's mother.

"The kids are excited," she said. "It's the first time my (two) boys have had their own room, so they're pretty excited."

This will be the first home McMillan has owned, and she said she's nervous but excited about the responsibility.

"It's mine, so if something breaks, I can't call the landlord," she said.

The walls will go up Monday in Miltona, and the rafters on Wednesday. The house is expected to be completed some time in September.

$15,000 grant for Miltona home

Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County also has been named as one of more than 220 Habitat organizations to receive a grant from Wells Fargo.

It will receive $15,000 and use the money to build a home in Miltona.

"Far too many people across the country are facing housing instability and one of our key priorities is to create housing affordability solutions where everyone can have a safe and affordable place to call home," said Rafael Ambriz, Alexandria Wells Fargo branch manager via a press release. "We are proud to support Habitat for Humanity in providing homeownership opportunities for hundreds of families nationwide through Wells Fargo builds."

The grant is part of a $7.75 million donation Wells Fargo is making to Habitat for Humanity International through Wells Fargo Builds, an initiative that provides philanthropic financial support and volunteeerism to create sustainable affordable housing. More than 340 homes will be constructed or repaired with Habitat in more than 40 states through the initiative this year.

Anderson said funds like these are "very important, especially now, (since) we're serving more families. …

"We're in the top ten in the nation in affiliates of our size, so we're pretty prolific, and the community support has helped us to get to that level," she said.

Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County usually builds four homes per year, but thanks in part to the grant, they will be building five this year.

"With the increased lumber costs, it costs more to build a home these days," Anderson said.

In addition to the builds, Habitat also has a goal to close in on 25 "aging in place" projects by the end of the fiscal year.

"We make critical repairs so people can remain in their homes," Anderson said. "We do grab bars, ramps, widened doorways, that type of thing. It really is helping people so they can remain in their home, go out and get their mail, pretty powerful things like that."

Anderson said it feels good to be able to complete projects like these after the organization was affected by COVID last year.

"We did have to pause the program for several months, and once we secured personal protective equipment and had our protocol in place we were able to resume it," she said.

A "Blessing of the Build Celebration" will be held for the Wells Fargo-funded house at 8:30 a.m. July 26 at 129 Pine Ave. in Miltona. The event will also be live-streamed on Habitat's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HFHdouglasCoMN.

For more information, visit www.hfhdouglascounty.org.

- Lowell Anderson contributed to this report.