Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley affiliate hosts its first CEO Build Day | VailDaily.com

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley affiliate hosts its first CEO Build Day

GYPSUM — It happened as it usually does during Habitat for Humanity build days: Toward the end of the day, as the work winds down, volunteers stepped back to look at what they had accomplished.

Thursday, July 19, was the local Habitat affiliate's CEO Build Day. Local and regional business executives who handle hundreds of people and millions of dollars each day gladly traded their business attire for blue volunteer T-shirts and their spreadsheets for hammers, saws and other construction tools to work all day in the hot sun.

Even more, they were happy to be there.

"This chapter of Habitat for Humanity is amazing, and their ingenuity just continues," said Kristin Williams.

Why they're there

It's good to know why you're working, whether you're swinging a paintbrush or a P&L statement. So before they started early Thursday morning, they heard from Modesta Serna, one of the partner families whose home they are helping build.

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Serna is an Eagle County native and raised her daughters here.

"Through life's journey, I found myself facing having to leave here because I could not afford to stay here," Serna said.

One of her friends was already a Habitat partner, so she asked him about it. She filled out an application last fall and waited from September to May to learn that she had been selected.

"I'm so excited. It's a place my kids and I can call our own," Serna said, pointing to her home.

Her kids are 19, 13 and 3 years old. They move in next month.

"We all help each other," Serna said.

Mary Lynn Staley and her family call the Vail Valley home. Lynn is vice chair of Habitat for Humanity International's regional board and has been on builds in South Africa, Thailand, Mexico and other exotic climes such as Gypsum, Edwards and Minnesota — at least those are the ones she could quickly recall while she was standing in a crawl space installing hangers for floor joists.

Like everything else in life, the foundation must be done correctly. If it's not, then things become exponentially harder, observed John Welaj, Habitat Vail Valley CEO.

Support runs deep

So far, Habitat volunteers have built 74 homes in the Vail Valley, providing homes for more than 250 children.

"Support runs deep in this valley," said Elyse Howard, development director for Habitat Vail Valley.

Right now, they're building six homes per year. They want to increase that to eight homes per year by 2021.

They're negotiating for lots to build 36 more homes in Gypsum's Stratton Flats neighborhood and have cut a deal with the school district to build homes between Gypsum Creek Middle School and Red Hill Elementary School for eligible school district employees.

"Because they're already so deeply engaged in the community, they're great partner families," Howard said.

Nothing is free

Partner families have to work at least 250 hours building their new homes — "sweat equity" is what Habitat folks call it. On Thursday, Serna had topped 500 hours.

After partner families invest hundreds of hours helping build their homes, and after they spend countless hours in classes learning about how to be homeowners and handle their money,

Habitat partner families buy their homes with zero-interest loans and payments based on 30 percent of their income.

Selection is based on need, ability to pay and willingness to partner with Habitat for Humanity. Family income must be between 35 percent and 80 percent of the area's average median income. For a family of four, that's $35,000 to $70,720.

You must also be either a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

Wander onto a Habitat construction site, and you'll likely see volunteers wearing T-shirts that ask a very sensible question, "What did you build today?"

Homes and families is the answer.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

Get involved

Habitat for Humanity builds simple, decent, affordable homes in partnership with local families in need. They’re accepting applications for partner families. For more information on Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, or to donate money, real estate or to volunteer, visit http://www.habitatvailvalley.org or call 970-748-6718.