Habitat Offers Hope, Help And Houses

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Volunteerism > Organization is building two structures near Española

By Tris DeRoma

Just down N.M. 30 in Española, a couple of small miracles are taking place.
A group from Buena Vista Colorado, the Colorado Arkansas River Habitat Volunteers, has come to Espanola to help out the local Española-Los Alamos Habitat for Humanity build two houses.
Located at 4 and 8 N.M. 30, the group is hard at work putting them up, despite the high winds and bad weather that’s reportedly in the forecast.
According to Yvonne Maestas, executive director for the local Habitat chapter, the group wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is their third year here,” she said. “They’ve been here two years in a row. Last year they went to Santa Fe, but they came back this year because they know we really need their help.”
The houses are being built for two families, one of them lost their home in a fire, Maestas said. According to how the program works, the mortgage is just for the at-cost price for building the home, which Española-LA HFH provides to build the house. It’s then the family’s responsibility to pay it back. Española-LA HFH has just three requirements to qualify for a HFH house: A family has to demonstrate a genuine need for the house, they’re in a low-income situation, but their income allows them to pay back the 0 percent interest mortgage offered through HFH.
Local builder Stan Primak is overseeing the group of volunteers. Primak has been involved in three previous Habitat projects, these projects will be his fourth and fifth. Besides pounding nails and measuring boards like the rest of the volunteers, he is also in charge of solving problems that may come up, showing the volunteers how to do certain tasks and making sure the supplies are plenty and that everyone has a job to do.
Primak said he became involved with Habitat For Humanity in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“My wife and I went down to New Orleans to work on some Habitat projects there after the hurricane,” Primak said. “Then I looked for something local up here and found this group.”
Primak said that he’s always had a natural impulse to give back to his community, whether it was through Habitat or something else.
“As a member of the community, I believe we have to do our share, no matter what our skills are,” he said.
The houses that are being built are about 1,100 square feet and according to Primak, are “green built.”
That means they are built to be energy efficient, have quality insulation and ventilation systems and use low to no VOC paints and finishes in their completion. “For example, the walls on this house are insulated to R30 and the ceilings are insulated to R60 which is way over code.”
Not all of them are the same either, Primak said. “The size and number of rooms depends on the size of the family moving in,” he said.
And not all of the volunteers that come to help are the same either, he added. While some are very experienced in carpentry and other building trades, he said many join up just because they want to help, so Primak does a lot of teaching.
“I’ve taught high school building trades for 18 years,” Primak said, adding that the key to running a group of volunteers with many different levels of experience is being organized, and always having something for people to do.
“It’s not hard to build a house once you break everything down into a simple task and then repeat that task. So if you get a crew and you have them repeat the same task for a couple of days, it works out.”
Primak also noted that this particular group of volunteers have been doing this for a number of years and have been all over the country.
One of those volunteers, Jim Wingert, has been with the Colorado group for about two years.
He said the experience of building homes for people that need them has been a transformative one. He’s also been a firefighter for 36 years, and even though that job too is about helping people, volunteering for Habitat has been a totally different experience.
He talks about a trip last year where he witnessed an exchange between a woman whose house they were working on and a crew member about the progress they were making on her new house.
“He encouraged her to go out to the jobsite, telling her that she’d be pleasantly surprised,” Wingert said. “To see the emotion in her eyes when he told her that really set new meaning to what we’re doing here. I’m really part of a team that’s building something instead of faced with disaster. We are rebuilding lives. I’m a Habitater for life.”
The Colorado group will be leaving Thursday, according to Maestas, so they will be looking for local volunteers. If interested, Maestas said they plan to pick up again in May, working every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information, contact the organization to volunteer at 747-2690. There also will be a local volunteer kickoff drive May 5 at the jobsite, which is located near the end of N.M. 30 in Española, the house numbers are “4” and “8” and is located near the familiar green and yellow KRSN AM sign. Habitat also has set up a makeshift headquarters at the El Buen Pastor Church, 607 Calle Rivera in Española, 753-0196.