A helping hand for Humanity | PostIndependent.com

A helping hand for Humanity

Heidi Rice
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

You don’t have to be indigent. You don’t have to have great credit. All you need is the desire to own your own home and be willing to put in a little sweat equity and effort to make it happen.

Those are the guidelines at Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley, which is now seeking families to own four units that will soon be under construction in Silt.

Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley, a local chapter of the national nonprofit organization, has so far built five homes in Rifle, three in Carbondale, one in Glenwood Springs and one in Emma, outside of Basalt.

“We look at everyone as an individual,” said Kristen Wilmes, executive director for Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley. “If they have bad credit, we evaluate what has made their credit bad.”

Some people may be bashful about submitting an application to Habitat, thinking that because they’re not dirt poor or panhandling on the streets, they would not qualify.

But there’s nothing further from the truth. Most Habitat for Humanity homeowners work, but have found themselves in circumstances that prevent them from owning a home.

Ten years ago, Marti Barbour of Emma, just west of Basalt, was the recipient of the first Habitat for Humanity home built in the Roaring Fork Valley. At the time, she was a recently single mother with four young children, ages 6, 8, 10 and 12.

“I’d been living in a rental home in West Glenwood Springs and they were about to put it on the market,” Barbour said. “I got Section 8 housing assistance, but I still couldn’t find anything and I was wondering what I was going to do and where I was going to go.”

Then she heard about a Habitat for Humanity home that was going to be built in her area.

Her now neighbor, Ginny Parker, had donated a half-acre of land to Habitat, which was going to build its first home in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Ten years later, Barbour is still in her home and credits Habitat for Humanity for changing her life and that of her children – who have gone on to college or enlisted in the Air Force.

“It’s been a magical experience,” she said. “Having the stability of this home has made all the difference – it’s changed our lives.”

Obtaining a Habitat home requires putting in 250 hours of sweat equity into the construction, but Barbour’s children were too young at the time to help.

“I worked at the Defiance Thrift Store and took minutes at the Habitat board meetings,” Barbour said. “I did whatever I could.”

And it paid off.

“It’s definitely worth it,” Barbour said. “It’s such a wonderful organization – it’s a hand up, not a hand out. You don’t have to be destitute. If you have the ability to repay an interest-free mortgage for an affordable home, but may not qualify for a traditional mortgage, you should contact Habitat for Humanity.”

It was October 2002 when Scott Edwards was seriously injured in a car accident, leaving him a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. His family of five was living in a small, one-bedroom home, with the children sleeping in the bedroom, Shari Edwards in the living room and Scott in the laundry room.

Then they heard of a Habitat for Humanity home being built in Rifle – the first one in the area. The family was chosen for the home in the North Pastures subdivision off 16th Street and moved into the three-bedroom home in March 2009. They are now celebrating two years as homeowners. Habitat built the home to be handicapped equipped with things such as automatic doors to accommodate Scott’s needs.

“Scott has a lot more freedom,” Shari said. “This is better, absolutely. At that time, housing prices were out of control. But now we have an affordable, interest-free mortgage.”

Scott was not able to contribute to the sweat equity requirement, but family members came from out of state to help.

“I provided lunch for the volunteers,” Shari said.

Shari, who works part-time for the school district, said she can now afford the mortgage payments with Scott’s disability and worker’s compensation. It’s something she would otherwise never have been able to afford.

“We would still be in that little tiny house,” she said. “But even then, we were very fortunate, because without any home, Scott would have had to be put in a nursing home. Scott absolutely loves this house. He can go anywhere and he doesn’t have to have help.”

Shari encourages anyone who is contemplating a Habitat for Humanity home to apply.

“It’s well worth it,” she said. “I’ve never had any problems dealing with Habitat at all.”

Maria Cornejo is celebrating two things this weekend. Her son’s birthday and her first year in her Habitat for Humanity home on Coal Mine Avenue in north Rifle.

“I’m so proud to celebrate my son’s birthday in my house,” Cornejo said. “It’s a great feeling. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

Cornejo, a single mom with two young sons, was the first homeowner to occupy one of three two-story townhomes built last year at Habitat’s Rimrock subdivision project.

“It’s been wonderful,” Cornejo said. “I can say that Habitat has been there before, during and after the process since getting this house. They are wonderful people. Habitat has been like a family to me.”

For the first time, Cornejo says she feels like her life means something.

“It’s like a dream come true,” she said. “Being able to come home to your own house and get the yard ready for spring. I spent a long time praying and it came true.”

Had it not been for Habitat, Cornejo said she would never have been able to afford a home on her own. And she encourages others in the same situation to look into a Habitat for Humanity home themselves.

“With the economy so bad, there are a lot of people out there with no jobs,” Cornejo said. “For those that have goals and want to get better, you just have to show [Habitat] some kind of proof. It’s more than just money. It’s about being willing to get better in your life.”

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