Roaring Fork Valley’s first recipient of Habitat house recalls dire times, golden opportunity
Marti Barbour was in dire straits 20 years ago as a single mom with four children and a monthly rent for a house in West Glenwood Springs that exceeded her salary.
She envisioned loading up her kids, all between ages 7 and 13, along with all their possessions and driving cross-country to her mom’s house, “Beverly Hillbillies-style,” she said.
Instead, a new chapter of Habitat for Humanity came to the rescue. Barbour, who then had the last name of Goulding, was the first person selected for housing assistance by Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork.
This summer, she achieved a milestone by paying off her mortgage and taking full ownership of the first Habitat home built in the valley.
“I made my last mortgage payment in June,” Barbour said.
On Monday, she recalled her struggles and how the Habitat home was such an important stabilizing factor for her family.
“They’ve changed the lives of individual families and given them stability,” Barbour said of Habitat’s efforts. “Communities depend on stable families.”
The local chapter of Habitat was started after an existing local nonprofit housing organization secured a grant to build housing, said Tim Whitsitt, Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork’s first president.
“That put Habitat on the ground,” he said.
Ginny Parker made a critical donation of one-half acre of land along West Emma Road. The land was adjacent to her family’s Happy Day Ranch. The Parkers welcomed having low-income housing in their backyard. Ginny and Marti have been friends ever since.
Barbour and her kids ended up in one of the sweetest spots in the valley. The site is surrounded by pasture, where American highlander cows now roam, with their distinct, shaggy look and long horns. It’s in the shadow of the high ground known as the Crown. Barbour’s living room bay window provides great views of Basalt Mountain.
“When I give people directions I say it’s kind of like ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” she said.
Barbour was selected from 30 applicants for the Habitat project. In return, she had to put in sweat equity labor and pay the monthly mortgage.
Groundbreaking for the house was in August 2000. As with all Habitat projects, Marti’s house depended on volunteer labor. Roaring Fork Valley residents rallied to the cause. Scores of volunteers turned up Dec. 23, 2000, to raise the walls. They were treated to a Christmas feast of turkey and all the trimmings at the Methodist Church in Basalt at the end of their workday.
“It was the welcoming of the community that was heartwarming,” Barbour said. “It inspired me to pay it back. I have received so much.”
Barbour and her kids moved into their new 1,150-square-foot, ranch-style house in April 2001.
Marti married Billy Barbour in December 2003. Marti’s kids grew up in the house and the family put their stamp on the property over the years. It came with a carport but now has a garage-workshop and some sheds. There is extensive landscaping, a deck and gardens. Inside, they added the living room bay window, installed granite countertops and replaced carpet with wood.
Barbour said they might never get the financial return from what they put into the house because there is a deed restriction that limits appreciation. Her focus was always making the house a home.
She and Billy are empty nesters now. Jessica works in software developer relations in Seattle. Victoria is a teacher at Blue Lake Preschool in the midvalley. Patrick served in the Air Force for six years and is finishing education in software development in Denver. Hannah works for a chemical supply company and is moving to Seattle.
“Other than being a proud parent, the reason I was boasting about my kids is because I feel the stability of having the Habitat home contributed to their success,” Barbour said.
Marti has her own business that educates seniors to boost their brainpower and she works with the Eagle County Department of Aging twice per week.
She said it was fulfilling to pay the final mortgage payment and own their home clear. She remains grateful to Habitat for all its done and helps the organization any way she can — working in its ReStore, helping with fundraising and promoting the organization’s good works.
“She’s never said ‘no’ when I ask her for this or that,” said Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork chapter President Scott Gilbert.
Barbour said most of the people who were on Habitat’s board of directors when she built her home are no longer serving. Nevertheless, the organization’s new faces “adopted her” and include her in pursuit of the mission.
Gilbert said Barbour is a great ambassador for the organization.
“This milestone is significant to Habitat because Marti’s purchase of the home by paying off the loan is true, ultimate homeownership,” he said.
Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork has gone on to complete 35 homes in the Roaring Fork and lower Colorado River Valleys. Of those, 14 are in the Roaring Fork Valley and 22 more units will be phased in at its latest project, Basalt Vista. The project is a collaboration with the Roaring Fork School District, which provided the land, and Pitkin County, which provided some of the funding.
Barbour said there is serendipity in the fact that she paid off her loan at a time when Habitat is building a project to benefit teachers and other school district employees. She was an employee of Basalt High School when she received her Habitat house.
“It feels wonderful to pass the baton and welcome and congratulate the new Basalt Habitat-Roaring Fork School District families,” she said.
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