Vail Valley families give thanks to Habitat |

Vail Valley families give thanks to Habitat

Construction crew leader Joe Stainbrook works near the foundation of a new home being built with Habitat for Humanity in 2014 at Stratton Flats in Gypsum. To combat housing shortages, some businesses and agencies have partnered with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to create employee housing. Otherwise, many employees say they cannot afford to stay in the Vail Valley.
Anthony Thornton | |

To help Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity of Eagle and Lake Counties builds simple, decent, affordable homes in partnership with local families in need. Founded in 1995, Habitat for Humanity of Eagle and Lake Counties has built 50 homes to date housing more than 150 children locally. They’re building more homes this year in Gypsum’s Stratton Flats. To volunteer go to, or call 970-748-6718.

Habitat for Humanity dedicated five more houses last week with a prayer that God make homes of those houses.

The prayer has already been answered.

These five new homes bring the number of homes and families for the local Habitat affiliate to 50 — 48 new homes and two rehabs — and 150 children with a place to call home.

A hand up

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Habitat’s partner families go through a long and exhaustive selection process. After they’re selected, each family member — even the children — works hundreds of hours on their new home building sweat equity. When that’s all done, they buy the homes with zero percent interest loans.

To be considered affordable, housing costs cannot exceed 30 percent of a family’s income. Habitat partner families earn less than 60 percent of Eagle County’s area median income.

The latest round of Habitat homes are being built in Gypsum’s Stratton Flats neighborhood.

“When I came here, I did not know about Habitat for Humanity and all the beautiful people,” said Maria Sanchez, from one of the five new partner families.

It really does take a community to create a Habitat home, said John Welaj, executive director of the local Habitat affiliate, Habitat for Humanity of Eagle and Lake Counties.

“I feel good about the contribution we’re making to the community,” Welaj said.

Lana Gallegos, Gypsum’s town planner, welcomed the families to town.

The Eagle River Presbyterian Church’s quilting circle gave each of them a hand made quilt: Seven adults, eight children, tens of thousands of stitches — each a labor of love.

Hammering out love

Where two or three are gathered, Habitat volunteers bring hammers. Hundreds of people volunteer thousands of hours to build the homes.

Guy Arault was the first local Habitat construction volunteer. He remembered working with Mike Guida staking out the first Habitat house in Gypsum, all those years ago. Guy has worked on every Habitat house since — 50 houses that are now 50 homes.

“There’s nothing like a dedication,” he said.

Ben Gochberg works with Wells Fargo bank in Eagle. He organizes the volunteer hours.

The Habitat homes are all LEED certified and even have solar panels on the roofs. They use the highest rated insulation, specialty heating and electrical systems.

Making the valley run

Some of the new Habitat partners are tradesmen — they all work at skilled jobs. One is a tile setter and mason. His wife is studying to be a paramedic.

“These are the kinds of people who make the valley run,” Gochberg said.

Renata Marshall is from one of the five new partner families.

Marshall is originally from Poland and is no stranger to construction. As a child, she helped her family build their own home. It took six years, amid the trouble and turmoil ripping at Poland in those days. Her family didn’t have much money, so they gathered materials and money where they could.

Two years after they built it, they rebuilt it. She and her family did everything, which was good. The crowd of Habitat volunteers is better, she said.

“Others being involved create very powerful feelings,” Marshall said. “I can see people working 12 hour days every day. They are beautiful people.”

“You’re building something real, something that lasts. You’re building a house, and it becomes a home,” she said.

It’s safe, and that’s the best thing about it.

“I can observe my little son as he runs around playing. He’s so happy.”

Marshall earned a business and marketing degree from a university in Poland. She’s working on her second college degree, a bachelor’s in sustainability from Colorado Mountain College.

As Sunday’s dedication ceremony wound down, they passed the hat — metaphorically. The five new partner families presented hard hats to the new families, whose homes are already under construction.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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