Special Christmas for Carbondale’s Deadwiler family
The Aspen Times
NEXT UP FOR HABITAT
Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork Valley will start accepting applications in January for its newest homes — one in Keator Grove in Carbondale and a duplex in Silt. Applications must be submitted by Feb. 15.
People interested should contact the organization for a pre-application form. It can be found at http://www.habitatroaringfork.org or by contacting Family Services Director Amy French at 970-948-7207 or Habitat.AmyF@gmail.com.
Sisters Nyomi and Maliyah Deadwiler probably don’t realize it yet, but they’re getting the best Christmas gift possible today.
The girls’ parents, Alonzo and Kristina Deadwiler, were selected earlier this year as the recipients of the most recent home built by Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley. The Deadwilers plan to complete their move into their new home in Carbondale’s Keator Grove neighborhood today.
“It’s the best Christmas ever,” Alonzo said.
“It’s our kids’ future. It’s beyond me and Alonzo,” Kristina said.
Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley has an illustrious record of picking deserving recipients for the 21 homes it has completed in the Roaring Fork and Lower Colorado River valleys. It’s helped numerous single moms struggling to raise families. It’s assisted people whose worlds were rocked by a disability or accident. The selection of the Deadwilers is a departure from the typical recipient, but one just as deserving. They are representatives of an endangered breed of Roaring Fork Valley residents: millennials struggling to get a foothold and raise a family because of the oppressive cost of housing.
Kristina has been in the valley 13 years and Alonzo for 12. They met nine years ago while working at Total Merchant Services in Basalt, fell in love, got married and decided to start a family. They first rented in Carbondale, then moved downvalley to a trailer in Glenwood Springs. With the birth of Nyomi six years ago and Maliyah three years ago, they were looking for permanence.
“We wanted a house. We didn’t want to continue to rent,” Kristina said. “We wanted a solid foundation for our kids.”
Home ownership was easier said then done. They were able to find a house to rent, but were forced out when it sold. The soaring real estate values and rents after the recession forced them to rent in New Castle, far from their roots in Carbondale, where Alonzo works as a personal banker at Wells Fargo and Nyomi was starting school.
The two-bedroom apartment was their third move in three years. They were beginning to wonder if they had a future in the Roaring Fork Valley. Alonzo estimated 90 percent of the friends he has made over the years have been forced to move away. Kristina said the high cost of housing has even driven out people who make good money.
“It never seems to be enough,” she said.
Valley losing middle class
They learned about the Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley application process but didn’t get their hopes up. They didn’t think they fit the profile of recipients.
“I thought Habitat was for poverty-stricken people, out on the streets,” Kristina said. “We’re not homeless.”
The Deadwilers’ household income is affected by a decision they made out of necessity. Kristina stopped working shorty after Nyomi was born. They learned their daughter was severely allergic to dairy products when she became deathly ill after given formula. Kristina stayed home to care for her. With the high cost of child care, they decided it made sense for her to continue to be a stay-at-home mom until Maliyah goes to school.
The Deadwilers decided at the last moment to apply for the Habitat house and submitted their paperwork minutes before the deadline.
Ryan Parker, a member of Habitat’s family selection committee, said the Deadwilers fit every test. As someone in the mortgage business, he is well aware of the struggles facing so many young families. The Deadwilers were selected out of 30 applicants.
Amy French, a Basalt native who is now volunteer coordinator and family services director for Habitat, has witnessed how the midvalley fabric has been frayed.
“The cost of housing is preventing our community from having a middle class,” she said.
French noted that Aspen and Pitkin County have taken steps to ease demand, but getting a place usually means winning a lottery.
“Homeownership shouldn’t be about being lucky,” she said.
Pay it forward
Alonzo and Kristina had no problem fulfilling the requirement of putting in 250 hours each of sweat equity during construction of their townhome.
“We helped build it,” Alonzo said. “This has a lot of us in it.”
It also has great views of Mount Sopris from the living-dining room area and kitchen. It is a two-story, three-bedroom unit of about 1,800 square feet. It’s close to the schools and a hop and skip from Alonzo’s job.
The Deadwilers said they truly enjoyed meeting all the volunteers who helped with the house and working with the Habitat staff. The Habitat projects really do incorporate the whole village, they said.
Scott Gilbert, president of the local Habitat chapter, said roughly 5 percent of the labor hours put into a Habitat houses is by the homeowners, 44 percent by other volunteers, 1 percent by subcontractors and 50 percent by Habitat staff.
Habitat builds as efficiently as possible but doesn’t take shortcuts, Gilbert said. Even so, it loses about $100,000 per home. It builds three or four homes per year.
The investment is well worth it, Gilbert said. Families like the Deadwilers are exactly the type of people Habitat wants to help remain in the valley.
Families generally pay about 28 percent of their gross income for mortgage principal, interest, insurance and taxes. But the Deadwilers are indebted beyond a mortgage. They said they will gladly “stay involved 100 percent” with Habitat’s local endeavors.
“I just want to keep paying it forward,” Kristina said.