Local Habitat for Humanity continues work
GYPSUM — No longer forced to bunk with both his siblings, Salvador Lopez will have an easier time concentrating on his goals, such as the Guardian Scholars program. The Lopezs — 16-year-old Salvador, 14-year-old Luis, 10-year-old Diane and their parents, Yolanda and Salvador — were among six local families to celebrate the dedication of their new homes Saturday in the Stratton Flats neighborhood. The Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley homeowner families contributed hundreds of hours of sweat equity to the project over the last year, working on the construction of their homes and other houses in the neighborhood. The families also attended educational workshops designed to help ensure their success as new homeowners, and the monthly payments on their low-cost mortgages will be put toward building more Habitat Vail Valley homes. "We're still settling Western Colorado, and that's what we're doing here today," said Kathy Chandler-Henry, an Eagle County commissioner and board member with Habitat Vail Valley, adding in a quote from Wallace Stegner. "We're creating a society to match our scenery." THE DREAM OF OWNING A HOME While the Stratton Flats community is still under construction, the larger community of Gypsum and Eagle is one that new Habitat homeowner Frances Carthy knows well. "I've spent all 32 years of my life in the Gypsum/Eagle area," Carthy told the group of 30 or so gathered at the dedication on Saturday. "My entire family lives in this area — aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, nieces, nephews — and this is our home." Carthy said house prices in the area are "far from affordable," and the Habitat program is one of the only ways she will be able own a home. "Habitat for Humanity has made my dreams come true," she said. Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley will continue work on the Stratton Flats neighborhood in the coming years after recently purchasing more land in the area. "We'll do six more duplexes this summer, and six next summer," said John Welaj, executive director of Habitat Vail Valley. 'MUCH EASIER FOR US NOW' Even though his family has already earned their home through their work in the neighborhood, Salvador Lopez plans to continue working on the new homes coming to the area. "The community is really nice here," he said. The volunteer hours will help Lopez meet the qualification criteria in applying for the Colorado Mountain College and Colorado Mesa College Guardian Scholars programs, which he sees as his best shot at getting a college education. "I have to have a 3.2 GPA. I have to be involved in the community. I also have to be doing sports and citizenship activities," he said. "There's a lot to it, but you just have to keep everything going." Lopez will be the first person from his family to attend college. "Historically, I think we've had four or five Habitat homeowner families who have had kids accepted into the Guardian Scholars program, which is basically a free ride, as long as they meet certain criteria," Welaj said. "We've been talking about how Salvador has been meeting that, and will hopefully be applying to the Guardian Scholar program. We expect great things of him." Lopez said his sophomore year at Eagle Valley High School went really well. "Everything is much easier for us now," he said.