Habitat for Humanity helps Alexandria family discover the joy of owning a home and a retiree who is aging in place

Habitat supporters gather for annual 'Hard Hat' event at Knute Nelson Field in Alexandria. Leaders set a goal of raising $130,000.

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An Alexandria mother, JeriAnn Hertwig, talks about how much she appreciates her new home that was built through the Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County program. She shared her story during habitat's annual "Hard Hat" event held at Knute Nelson Field on June 16, 2021. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press)

JeriAnn Hertwig and her two young children, a girl in second grade and a boy in kindergarten, found their “forever home” through Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County .

Last Wednesday, June 16, Hertwig told hundreds of habitat supporters – who were sitting in the stands at Knute Nelson Field for habitat’s 15th annual “Hard Hat” event – that the program changed her family’s life.

Before moving into their own habitat home, the family had been living in Hertwig’s mother’s house and it was a little crowded.

Now, living in their own house, their lives have been transformed in big and small ways, Hertwig said. They bake and cook together. They like hiking around in their neighborhood. Her children have a good routine. She’s noticed that her daughter’s reading has improved and there’s less anxiety. Her son plays in his own room.

“They each have their own space to go to,” she said.


As her house was being built, she thoroughly enjoyed helping with the construction and working with the volunteers and the AmeriCorps members.

“My home, in one word, is awesome,” she said.

Hertwig likes paying her bills on time. She said she feels better about herself.

“I’ve turned my life around,” she said. “If you’ve ever thought about applying for a habitat house, do it. It’s so worth it.”

Dennis Anhalt, who worked as an announcer and news director at KXRA Radio for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2017, also had high praise for Habitat for Humanity. He told the Hard Hat attendees that habitat’s “Aging in Place” program allows him to live in the comfort of his own home instead of an assisted living facility.

The program made his house more safe by installing grab bars, handrails, non-skid rugs and a chair that transports him to the bathtub. It’s also made his house more energy efficient, such as providing weather stripping materials.

All the improvements, Anhalt said, have helped him live a “very positive” life and to go about his day with more confidence. He imparted some advice on how to live a better life: “Stay around positive people and friends and don’t watch too much news!”

Lori Anderson, executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity, noted that the program is in its 24th year and has helped 109 families. She thanked all the supporters who have made the Douglas County habitat chapter the top producer in the nation for the small affiliates.


Anderson talked about how serious the affordable housing problem is in Douglas County: Nearly 1,800 homeowners spend more than 50% of their income on housing, she said.

Habitat for Humanity gives families an affordable mortgage and the chance to create savings and invest in their future, Anderson said.

The program also protects the health of families by providing a decent roof over their heads, and allows existing homeowners to age in their homes with dignity by offering affordable repairs, said Anderson.

Others who spoke at the Hard Hat event were Booke Zabel, Habitat Board president; Lynn Evans, Hard Hat Committee co-chair; Kevin Taylor, youth pastor at Reach Church, closing prayer; and Greg Donnelly, pastor at Alexandria Covenant, closing prayer for the “happy hour” Hard Hat event later that day.

To apply for home ownership or Aging in Place, go to the website, or call 320-762-4255.

Transforming lives

Some life-changing numbers were celebrated at the June 16 “Hard Hat” event at Knute Nelson Ball Field.

Since 1997, Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County has transformed lives for:

  • 109 families.

  • 316 individuals.

The program has completed:


  • 75 homes.

  • 34 Aging in Place projects.

How to help

Habitat for Humanity has set a goal of raising $130,000 to continue its programs for the coming year. A total of 93 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to Habitat programs.

There are several ways to support Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County:

  • Text DOUGLAS to 26989 to access text-to-give options.

  • Donate by mail – HFH of Douglas County, 1211 N Nokomis NE, Alexandria, MN 56308.

  • Donate by phone – call 320-762-4255.

  • Go to the website and click on DONATE.

  • Employer matching gifts. Many employers will match tax-deductible charitable contributions made by their employees, retirees and employees' spouses. Some provide matching funds to support employee volunteer hours. If your company is eligible, download or request a matching gift form from your employer. Complete the form your company has in place for matching gifts.

All donations are tax-deductible. Receipts for all donations will be sent via mail upon processing.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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