Pat Burdick, Kayla Smith and Lori Saine work on Women Build Day. The goal is to empower women on the work site. On a Women Build house 75 percent of the volunteers are female. Courtesy Habitat for Humanity St. Vrain Valley

BY DOMINIQUE DEL GROSSO

Habitat for Humanity St. Vrain Valley changes lives every day by building quality, energy efficient homes. It provides “a hand up, not a hand down” to those in need throughout the community. This organization is a grassroots community initiative that focuses on community through faith and service.

The Habitat for Humanity St. Vrain Valley is an affiliate of the Habitat for Humanity International organization. It has been providing service to the area since 1988. Habitat’s service area is defined by the St. Vrain Valley school district, which includes eight cities.

Many community members volunteer their time and services to a number of Habitat’s needs. These positions vary from volunteer board opportunities to planning and on-site construction.

David Emerson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity St. Vrain Valley in Longmont, says volunteers are a central component to the organization’s success, and they would not build houses without them. “I’m not sure who gets more out of the experience – the family or the volunteers?” he says. “It’s more than just building houses, it’s really about building relationships and community.”

Being in need of a house is sometimes not enough to qualify for a Habitat home. In fact, qualifying can be a tough process, because the process is rigorous and Habitat doesn’t give homes to families for free.

Families must first undergo background checks, credit checks, employer checks and multiple interviews. Habitat also requires its homeowners to pay monthly mortgage payments. These payments never exceed 30 percent of the family’s income and is reinvested into building future Habitat homes.

Once qualified for a Habitat home, a family is required to be an integral part of the home building process through “sweat equity” hours. These hours are divided by on-site construction and in-classroom hours.

In the classes, potential homeowners will take a home maintenance class, a new homeowners course and a financial fitness class, for example. Some classes are mandatory while others are optional.

“Sweat equity is not about the labor, it’s about meeting the people who are there to help them (the family). “We want the family to build relationships with them (the volunteers) and help the family take pride in what we’re doing,” Emerson says.

Emerson says Habitat is faith in action. “We are a Christian ministry that works with the community for the community,” he says. “It strikes the proper balance.”