Habitat home makes Carbondale family feel blessed

Stina SiegPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

CARBONDALE – If all of this had happened to a friend, Jeff Smith said, he wouldn’t even believe him. That’s how blessed he feels these days.

Smith, 33, was bundled up and smiling, speaking from the middle of a construction site at the Cleveland Place II subdivision. There, at noon on Sunday, Smith and his family joined dozens of Habitat for Humanity volunteers as they celebrated the official groundbreaking for the Smiths’ future house. After five years in the valley, Smith, his wife, Colleen, 32, and their five children: Ashley, 13; Christian, 11; Kyra, 7; David, 5; and June, 3, will move into a place they can truly call their own.”It makes me hopeful,” Smith said. “I see people helping people.”The event was a far cry from the day his family rolled into the area with their tent trailer. They had no money, no support and no plan. But something about the Roaring Fork Valley – its distinct seasons, intense beauty and friendly people – convinced them to stay. Nothing was easy, Smith admitted, but after a few weeks he had found work, and soon they had a house to rent. After joining the Church at Carbondale, they knew they were home.”Once you get here, you don’t want to leave,” he said. In the years since, in many ways, things have been good to them. Smith opened his own business, a mobile mechanic service, and they welcomed the birth of their fifth child. But as rents rose, they found themselves financially choked. Facing the prospect of doubled rent, they came to Habitat for Humanity at the recommendation of their landlord. After finding out their application had been received, their first reaction was complete shock, he said, followed the next day by extreme gratitude and reverence.”I would have to say that it’s definitely a God thing,” he said. “If he was going to make it work, he was going to make it work, regardless of our resources.”

He feels it’s that faith that keeps the family going, even as they all live together in a 12-by-14-foot room, which they rent for $500 a month from a church friend.”I’m just so happy” said Colleen, as her younger children tugged at her for attention. “I’m excited to be a homeowner.”For her, the biggest thing is seeing how happy the promise of the house has made the children. Christian is looking forward to enough space to ride his bike, while Kyra is already designing her room in her head. June might be too young to fully understand the home’s importance, but she sure talks about it a lot. David probably mentions the house the most, and he’s jazzed about helping with the building. It’s no surprise that Ashley, the budding teenager, is “really, really excited” about having her own room for the first time.During the ceremony, the Smiths’ littlest ones squirmed and hugged their siblings against the cold. The older children stood by and smiled as various reporters scribbled notes and snapped pictures, and Habitat volunteers spoke about their experiences with the organization.”I believe this is going to a really great family,” said Ray Limoges, board vice president and construction committee chair. Limoges talked shop about the future building’s eco-friendly, solar-heating design, added due to a $25,000 grant from the city of Aspen and Pitkin County’s Renewable Energy Mitigation Program. All of these advances, he said, will make the family’s heating bill extremely low. Building, he continued, will begin in the next few days with New Hope Construction, a nonprofit company out of Tennessee. His wife, Shirley, would later add that all of this was possible because of David Hicks of Prince Creek Construction, who donated the land for the home at “gift price.”Limoges, who has been working with Habitat for nearly 20 years, was reluctant to give a completion date, but said he looked forward to working with the Smiths. Just as all Habitat recipients do, the family will put in 250 hours per adult of sweat equity as well as pay $500 or $600 on an interest-free loan each month after the completion. Limoges estimated that this home, like the last one he helped build, will take 250 volunteers and 5,000 hours of work before it’s done. He doesn’t mind the effort, however. For him, that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s my way of giving back,” he said. “Working with the partner families is as rewarding as anything I’ve ever done.”When asked, Smith spoke with definite excitement about getting started. No one in his family, he said, can wait to move in. Though he said he’s lived a life of faith and has known things would work out, this new home still feels like a dream.”This is too good to be true,” he said, as friends walked up to congratulate him. For information about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, call 945-7733.Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111ssieg@postindependent.comPost Independent Glenwood Springs CO Colorado

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