Roaring Fork Valley Habitat for Humanity to build new ReStore | AspenTimes.com

Roaring Fork Valley Habitat for Humanity to build new ReStore

Angelyn Frankenberg
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Habitat homeowner and employee Michael Salazar works on drywall installation at Duffy Snell’s Habitat home in Carbondale.

When Roaring Fork Valley Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on its new ReStore next fall, it will start a new phase in building stronger families and stronger communities, just like when families get a new start when selected as Habitat homeowners.

Roaring Fork Habitat recently sealed the deal to purchase 6 acres of land directly upvalley from its current ReStore location on Highway 82, where it will build a new, larger ReStore.

The current ReStore — one of the top 10 such operations in the nation in sales — entirely supports the local affiliate's administrative functions, which means the organization dedicates 100 percent of its other donations to building homes.

Habitat also is celebrating another milestone: On Dec. 1, the State of Colorado designated it as an Enterprise Zone for economic development. The designation enables people to get a 25 percent state tax credit on donations to the organization. Scott Gilbert, president of Roaring Fork Habitat said the bigger tax break enables donors to give larger gifts to Habitat at less net cost.

A CASE STUDY

Michael Salazar, of Silt, has experienced two new beginnings with Roaring Fork Valley Habitat for Humanity.

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Salazar, 39, who grew up in Red Cliff and has worked in hotel maintenance and property management, explained that he learned sound financial lessons from his grandparents and parents. But he and his wife, Apryl, were both very young — 19 and 15 — when they married in January 1994. Apryl dropped out of high school to work, and their first child was born a year later.

Early in their marriage, Salazar said, purchasing a home some day was a high priority. But their youth, combined with their own financial mistakes and realities of the broader economy, put that dream on the "way, way back burner." After 15 years, with four children, they were living paycheck to paycheck and no longer talked about home ownership.

In 2011, the Salazars applied to purchase a Habitat home. Michael's sister, already a Habitat homeowner, encouraged the family and they learned a little about the program from one of his co-workers, who also was a Habitat owner. Still, they were unsure about the process and approached the application with an attitude of "what do we have to lose?" They were selected in February 2011, and Michael's uncertainty finally turned into excitement when construction started that summer.

Salazar said becoming a homeowner through Habitat provided stability for his marriage and for his children. He became more confident about his role as a father, he said, because "I can provide not just a house … but now they've got a home to come home to." He also knows that the home is a financial asset that he will be able to pass on to his children in the future.

A TRANSFORMATION

The Salazar family was concerned that they might lose their new home when Michael lost his job as a hospital security officer in the fall. But Habitat helped again by hiring Michael for its construction team.

Scott Gilbert, Roaring Fork Habitat chapter president, and Rick Farr, Habitat building supervisor, describe Salazar as a respectful and dedicated employee who excels at serving others. They recognized his work ethic while he and his wife put in sweat equity on their own Habitat home and have seen a transformation in his personality since hiring him. Gilbert said, "Michael (used to) come in, put his head down and go to work; now he comes in, puts his head up, looks around and sees how he can help."

Salazar agrees that becoming a Habitat homeowner and employee have both contributed to greatly increasing his confidence. Describing himself as shy, he said he used to be intimidated by people because of their position or background. But now "I have no problem going up to them, shaking their hand and having a conversation with full eye contact," he said.

Learning specific job skills has been exciting for Salazar. He said he now understands why houses are built the way they are and that learning how to read blueprints is the coolest technical skill he has gained as a Habitat employee. But he added that his most important growth has been in his ability to get along with people and "to work with people on a level I never thought I'd be able to."

Being on both sides of Habitat's mission of providing a hand up, not a hand out, has helped Salazar become more accepting of people from different circumstances. Habitat staff and volunteers were open to Salazar in spite of his background and financial difficulties, and he practiced the same attitude when Garfield County Department of Corrections inmate crews started working on Habitat homes.

Salazar said inmates are among the best workers, and he feels honored to be part of their lives. He said doing real work and learning new skills gives many of the inmates hope for a better life outside and they are grateful because "you guys treat us like people, not like prisoners."

Habitat's mission is a full circle for Salazar: receiving and giving, learning and teaching, getting help and helping others.

Gilbert told a story about seeing an envelope with Habitat's name on it at the Roaring Fork Valley Co-op recently. He learned that it was a $50 donation from 10-year-old Bailey Parker. After learning about Habitat from his mother, Donna Marie Parker, who works at the co-op, Bailey told her he wanted to give his Christmas money to the organization.

The circle of giving continues.

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