Fruits of community labor
September 1, 2006
Josefa Mayo suspects that she and her five children get on the nerves of her sister at times.High costs make it impossible for the single mom to buy or rent housing, so she is forced to turn to family for help. She and her kids, ages 8-14, are currently packed into the basement of her sister’s home in El Jebel’s Blue Lake subdivision.Mayo, 29, aimed to change her luck last year when she applied to purchase one side of a duplex that the local chapter for Habitat for Humanity is building in Carbondale.”You’re just sitting there praying to God, ‘Please let it be me,'” she recalled.Her prayer was answered. Mayo will be an owner at Cleveland Place, where the developer of a free-market project contributed land to Habitat for a duplex. Each half is 1,150 square feet.The nonprofit organization is working on what will be its third and fourth units in the valley. It has already constructed single-family homes in the Emma area and in Glenwood Springs.
The Carbondale duplex is framed and covered with plywood. Windows are being installed by a volunteer crew of skilled workers and siding will soon be added. Inside, 2-by-4s are exposed like the ribs of a whale while the work progresses on the exterior. But Mayo sees the interior coming together; in her mind’s eye she is already decorating the rooms of the two-story unit.Mayo isn’t gaining something for nothing; Habitat for Humanity is designed to help those who help themselves.”We believe we’re giving a hand up, not a handout,” said Ray Limoges, vice president of the Roaring Fork chapter of Habitat for Humanity.Mayo had to work a minimum of 250 hours on construction of the house, so she spends a fair bit of time at the site at Cleveland and Eighth streets in Carbondale. She’s learned to use a nail gun and a variety of other construction equipment.”I’m surprised they let me use all this stuff,” she said with a laugh. Her real job is at the 7-Eleven in Glenwood Springs.Her kids always want to visit the site with her and watch their new home take shape. “It’s been pretty nice because you see it [go up] from bottom to top,” said Mayo, a Denver native who moved to the Roaring Fork Valley 15 years ago.
In addition to the sweat equity, Mayo must pay off a 20-year, no-interest $90,000 mortgage held by Habitat for Humanity. She said she explained to her kids that they weren’t receiving charity. Rather, they were working for what they are getting.If Mayo or any other recipient of a Habitat house decides to sell, the organization has the first right of refusal. There are caps on annual appreciation.Applicants are reviewed on a variety of criteria; income levels must be between $18,000 to $35,000 and they must be living in a “substandard” housing situation.Manuela Leal was selected to buy the other half of the duplex. She has two teenage kids and her mom in her household, according to Limoges.He said there is plenty of need for Habitat housing in the Roaring Fork Valley. The organization has trouble meeting that demand because of high land costs.
The Cleveland Place developers, Tom Neel and David Hicks, donated the lot to Habitat. The nonprofit organization also has a contract to purchase a single-family lot in an adjacent project the same developers are undertaking, Limoges said.
Land contributions and sales at below-market price will be essential for Habitat to reach its ambitious goal of building at least two residences in the Roaring Fork Valley per year for the foreseeable future.Once Habitat secures land, construction is comparatively easier. Numerous organizations and individuals donate their time, including construction professionals who can supervise unskilled laborers. Five workers from the Bank of Colorado were on site Thursday, painting siding and assisting where needed.”I’m always into helping the community,” said Jessica Campbell, a worker from the bank.Bank of Colorado paid Campbell and her co-workers their regular wage for the day and covered their shifts.Limoges said it is common to see people who volunteer as part of a group come back to the site as individuals because they had such a rewarding time.
The valley’s construction industry gets into the act by donating or reducing prices for materials, appliances and furnishings. Habitat always needs financial contributions.The collective effort will produce a new home for Mayo and her kids as well as Leal’s family by Thanksgiving. Mayo said it is rewarding to see the such a broad segment of the community come together in the effort. More about the program and its successes locally can be found on the web at http://www.habitatroaringfork.com. Volunteers can contact Kristen Wilmes for scheduling at 928-0828.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.