Habitat builds Waco from ground up

A Habitat for Humanity volunteer works hard on Saturday January 25 as he helps build a new home for a deserving Waco family.  Constance Atton | Lariat Photographer
A Habitat for Humanity volunteer works hard on Saturday January 25 as he helps build a new home for a deserving Waco family.
Constance Atton | Lariat Photographer

By Lauren Tidmore

Hammers, nails and electric saws sounded as nearly 30 Habitat for Humanity volunteers and community leaders gathered for the first Harvest House Wall Raising Saturday morning at 408 Boyd Lane in Waco.

Habitat board members, a group of 11 RV Care-A-Vanner volunteers and the Blancos, the Habitat partner family and future homeowners of the Harvest House, worked together to begin framing Habitat’s 152nd home.

“We want to appreciate everybody for their hard work,” said Jose Blanco, future Harvest House homeowner. “Every day we were living house-to-house — not very weather resistant and very bad and cold to get in. Now thanks to God and everybody, it’s going to be a dream come true.”

Habitat homeowners are educated through a 12-month homeowners college and are required to obtain at least 300 hours of volunteer work, 150 being dedicated to their own home and 150 to other construction projects. This is known as “sweat equity.”

Habitat executive director Brenda Shuttlesworth said the Blanco family met their 150-hour requirement in only two months, which on average takes six months. Waco Habitat for Humanity plans to complete the Blanco’s home within the next three or four months.

“I love that it’s a hand-up, not a handout policy,” said Diane Mason, vice president of the Habitat board.

The Harvest House construction project was named after the Harvest Diner Waco Habitat for Humanity hosted this past November. Financial and volunteer supporters for the organization as well as board members were in attendance at the dinner, which was held in celebration of a $20,000 donation from Samsung, $10,000 of which was set aside for the construction of the Harvest House.

“One of their marketing guys called us up, and he said, ‘We’d like to make a donation to Habitat this fall. Could you use $20,000?’ Well yeah!” Shuttlesworth said. “I am truly appreciative to all of the partners—big partners, little partners and every partner in between. Every cent matters as we help make decent, affordable housing available to people in our greater McLennan County community.”

In addition to receiving the donation from Samsung, Waco Habitat for Humanity was recently selected to receive a $150,000 grant from the Home Depot Foundation. The Waco Habitat for Humanity was one of 20 affiliates selected out of 1,500 applicants. The grant allows for a $15,000 budget on each new home built specifically for McLennan County veterans. But the financial donations help those beyond McLennan County become homeowners as well.

“We tithe 10 percent of the cost of the home,” said board president Mark Boyd.

The 10 percent tithed is donated to construction projects in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Because there are less expensive building materials in these countries, the 10 percent from Waco Habitat allows for the building of a complete home.

“Some would say we get a two-fer,” said Boyd.

Waco Habitat board members and staff credit much of the work being done on the Harvest House to a group of volunteers known as the RV Care-A-Vanners. The group of volunteers travels site to site all over the United States to aid in the completion of nonprofit construction projects much like the Harvest House. The 11 Care-A-Vanners that began work in Waco two weeks ago call places such as Minnesota, Arizona, Washington, Kentucky and Texas their homes.

“They are hugely talented, and some of us are just kind of gophers,” said Fred Winslow, RV Care-A-Vanners leader and associate minister of Austin Avenue United Methodist Church. “And what I have discovered is there are no bad RV Care-A-Vanners. I mean, they’re just good people. The reason they show up is because it’s their heart to want to help — to want to give back. And I’m very proud of them.”

The organization also hopes to begin working on reconstruction in West soon. Three homes are fully funded for the West community; however, finding families who are interested is a problem.

“Having families actually come to informational meetings is our hardest struggle with West right now,” said Ashley Burk, Habitat’s human resources coordinator.

Burk said she encourages Baylor students to spread the word about Waco Habitat informational meetings. The organization is accepting applications for Habitat families in the West community. Burk also wished to thank 1424 Bistro, Teriyaki Park and Little Caesar’s, who helped keep volunteers fed throughout the initial building process.

“We’re always willing to do whatever we can for people who have gone above and beyond for us,” Burk said.

Waco Habitat for Humanity provides information on how to apply for a Habitat home on its website at www.wacohabitat.org.

Those who want to get involved in Habitat volunteer work attend one of the Baylor Habitat for Humanity chapter meetings, which are held at 6:00 p.m. every Wednesday. Waco Habitat also plans on hosting a house dedication for Daisy Yruegas, another homeowner, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday Jan. 30 next door to the Harvest House on Boyd Lane.