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New Habitat project helps two families create roots

BRANDON MATHIS/Durango Herald

Preston, 9, Austyn, 12, and their, mother Meghan Earley, open housewarming gifts from family and friends in their new house built by Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County. Earley said the family has moved repeatedly over the last several years.

By Brandon Mathis
Herald Staff Writer

BAYFIELD – Leilah Young, who works full time, goes to school full time and is a single parent, never thought she’d own a home.

But when she learned how Habitat for Humanity helps make affordable home ownership possible, she took a chance. Now she has a key to a brand new house.

Habitat for Humanity finds funds “anyway we can,” said board president Doug Wallis, board president. It usually comes by way of grants, donations and its ReStore, recently redesigned in Bodo Park, which sells building materials, appliances and home furnishings. Store manager Kevin Bates said the store has been a hit since they reopened.

“One hundred percent of every penny we make makes this happen,” he said.

On Sunday, at Fox Farm Village in Bayfield, about 50 people gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, as Young and her new neighbor, Meghan Earley, another program beneficiary, walked through the threshold of their new homes.

“It’s overwhelming,” Earley said. “My ex-husband is in the military. We’ve never had a stable home. When my oldest son started sixth grade, it was his eighth school.”

Earley, a nurse in Durango and mother of two, said she was relieved to call this home for good.

“This is finally it,” she said. “We’re buying a house. We’re staying in Bayfield. They’ll graduate from Bayfield (High School) It’s really exciting.”

Rachel Taylor-Saghie, Habitat’s executive director in La Plata County, said the duplex marks the organization’s 38th home in the county. She said they are modest, energy-efficient homes built for the size of the family. Recipients typically are families that do not qualify for commercial loans, often because of education debts.

“The need for lower income housing is growing,” said Taylor-Saghie. “These are people that work and support the community.”

Two years ago, 44 percent of families in La Plata County made less than $44,000 a year. she said. Since then, the number has increased to 51 percent.

Benefits of the program go beyond affordable homeownership, she said.

“There is more stability in the family,” she said. “Children do better in school. Parents are more likely to vote. It just changes their lives.”

Recipients of Habitat homes must show their willingness to comply with the program. That means taking financial-management courses, completing credit workshops and getting their hands dirty.

“There is sweat equity,” said Taylor-Saghie. “Volunteering their time, whether it’s on their house or others. They’re out there hammering nails on the job site.”

Young and son Conner, 5, said they can’t wait to settle in.

“It’s a story I can share with him,” she said. “Mommy helped build this house.”

bmathis@durangoherald.com

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