Local businesses work to make dreams a reality
Habitat for Humanity is community spirit made manifest, created by the individuals who give their time and energy to running the non-profit organization’s board and businesses that donate material, labor and funds to support the work started so many years ago.
“We’ve donated to Habitat for Humanity ever since they came to town,” says Brad Shoen, with Kelly’s Pipe and Supply Co. “When the national organization opened a chapter in Las Vegas, we were more than willing to help the local group get [going] and help needy people get a break.”
Habitat for Humanity secures corporate funding, in-kind donations and volunteer labor to build homes that are sold to lowincome families at no profit. Habitat started in Nevada in 1991 in the South and 1989 in the North. In Reno, community reaction was initially mixed. Residents in the neighborhood where proposed Habitat homes were being built were afraid the houses would be substandard and that property values would go down.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Habitat homes, which are sold at well below market to families who have gone through a selection process, are frequently built with the newest techniques and materials available. For the newest Habitat home in Northern Nevada, the donated materials comprise ICF, insulated concrete forms, blocks that create a home with a life expectancy far greater than traditional wood homes. The same blocks used in the creation of the Montreux golf clubhouse are now being used to build a Habitat home. “What is neat about the product,” says Frank Brock of Brock & Weigl Construction, a company that works with Habitat frequently and is moving into building with ICF, “is the exterior won’t twist, rot or bum.” The very thickness of the blocks creates a three-hour firewall, as well as providing superior sound-deadening capability. But best of all, with ICF blocks, the insulation factor allows the home to be super energy efficient, with a predicted 40 percent to 60 percent energy savings, which makes a difference to these families.
Jeff Ostomel, president of Truckee Meadows Habitat for Humanity, says Habitat homeowners frequently lack the resources to maintain the homes. “I’ve had my hands on 12 of them now and of these not one has the backyard landscaped. Homeowners don’t think they can afford the water. So this construction system should lower utilities payments. They have smaller furnaces than conventionally are put in and the heating costs are supposed to be substantially lower.”
Loans for Habitat homes are based on one-third of the family’s gross income, and all of the payment goes to the principal. In addition, services such as the appraisal of the home are free.
“I like what they stand for, and when Habitat approached me I was very pleased,” says Debbie Huber of Huber Appraisal, Inc., who provides pro bono appraisals of Habitat homes in Las Vegas. ”The best part is knowing I’m helping in a very small way to be a part of a team helping to provide a better family life for these folks.”
”This has been a passion of mine,” says Steve Linder, president of Habitat for Humanity in Las Vegas and community relations for Household Bank, which sponsors half a home a year. “We take people in substandard housing and give them a decent place to live. But the best part and the real reward is to see the look on new homeowners’ faces when they get the keys to their home. It’s good to hear their stories and see their faces as they move up with a hand from Habitat.”
Contractors often work together with other sponsoring groups. One Las Vegas home was built in a joint project between the Meadows School and suppliers such as Kelly’s Pipe and Supply Co. Students worked to expedite material and learned to organize a job and what was required to see the project through to completion.
Habitat frequently works both ways. Not only are the houses built from donated materials and labor, but they provide a training ground for groups that otherwise have none. In Northern Nevada, the Job Corps training programs and union apprenticeships have the manpower, but no projects to work on and no funds to purchase materials. “[Participants in] the union apprenticeship masonry program put blocks together and take them apart,” says Ostomel. ‘They did the retaining wall and foundation [on the most recent home] and it’s great training for them to get to leave it up.”
The Job Corps electrical training program is especially in need of projects. “We learned about them when they did the electrical work with an instructor, a journeyman electrician,” says Ostomel. ‘They came in with 20 people where you usually have two. It looked like locusts swarming – they were everywhere. We bought the wire, they did the work.” Job Corps also supplied manpower to insulate, do the roof and hang dry wall. Other training programs did stucco and plumbing. Job Corps has no heating and ventilation program, but Truckee Meadows Community College· does. They were so pleased to have an actual project they had to be restrained from adding air conditioning to the home -just to do it.
But the best part, says Steve Benna of CB Concrete, whose company has been involved with Habitat for the last five years, is doing something for the community, and helping somebody in need.
Families buying Habitat homes are required to invest 500 hours of sweat equity. The work creates a sense of ownership. ‘That’s why sweat equity is so valuable,” says Ostomel. “You talk to the kids and [they say], ‘Yeah, I worked on this.’ We had a mom and two boys and one of the boys, he’s picking up trash, working, sweeping- he made a difference when it’s done. All the homes are that way. The one right next door, Kyle was five when we built his house and he was helping paint. There was one day, he was covered in paint, I don’t know if there was more paint on him or the house. Kyle had an older brother and he did more, but [Kyle] was there helping and if you were to ask him, he’d say ‘I helped build this house.'”