It wasn’t a champagne christening – hot chocolate was more appropriate given the weather – but it was still festive when the new Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County ReStore truck made its debut at Mercury on Jan. 14.
The celebration took place at Mercury, a Vantiv company, for a reason: The payment-systems company signed a letter of intent to make donations over the span of several years to pay for the truck, which will be used to pick up large donations and deliver large-item purchases for Habitat’s ReStore.
Along with the hot chocolate, treats were also on offer as countless Mercury employees, bundled up for the weather, trooped out while taking a break to check out the new wheels.
The ReStore isn’t just a boon for Habitat, bringing in much-needed funding for its builds to provide housing accessible to the pocketbooks of the working people who keep our community thriving. It also allows people looking to spruce up their home with a new lamp, appliance or piece of furniture or even pick up the occasional construction supplies to rent a truck at an affordable rate.
One might call the new truck the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.
More and more people are being priced out of the local market, said Rachel Taylor-Saghie, executive director of Habitat. It use to be about 50 percent of Durango’s workforce couldn’t afford to buy a home here. Now it’s up to 56.6 percent. Most new home construction is focusing on wealthier clients and second-home purchasers, she said, leaving everyone from law enforcement to nurses, teachers to, yes, Fort Lewis College professors, scrambling for a home in their budget.
With rent skyrocketing as well – even for the ReStore itself – what’s a person to do?
I can’t begin to count the number of events I have attended where people are grumbling about why should they help people have “free” housing. What’s ironic in that thought is that it’s so far from the truth. Probably no one earns their homes more than the families who purchase Habitat homes. Not only do they have to put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity – 250 for single-parent families, 500 for two-parent families – for a down payment, they pay a mortgage just like every other homeowner.
This lack of inventory in the housing market makes a real difference in our sense of community. I, for one, worry about Durango becoming like Aspen or Telluride, where many of the people who actually make the community function successfully have to live elsewhere. So many people who move here mention that they like that Durango is a “real” community, but it can only stay one with a lot of work on issues like this.
Habitat always needs volunteers for the ReStore, for tasks such as running the cash register, pricing merchandise and repairing appliances. If you want to provide extra hands to work on the 2016 builds, they welcome both skilled and nonskilled labor on the job site in Bayfield starting in May. Are you more of a fundraiser or talented at governance? Board members and people who can help bring in additional funding are also needed.
Visit www.habitatlaplata.org or call 382-2215 to learn more.
Whether they celebrated their birthdays leading up to Snowdown or are hoping to blow out birthday candles during Durango’s ever-hopping winter festival, here’s hoping they’re fun for Sweetie Marbury, Lee Campbell, Wynn Berven, Mary Jo James, Randy Swan, Terry Swan, Aggie Owens, Liz Snow, Ian Phillips, Butch Keller, Will Albert, John Anderson, Dona Anderson, Jim Bolen, Sally Bradley, Scott McCool, Mike Sarti, Jacquie Caldwell, Brigitte Cunningham, Mark Magee, Trudy Mickel, Thomas Boness, Jim Williams, Vivian Lowe, Scott Cheesewright, Tammy (Honold) Pratt, Quinn Luthy, Aurora Rose, Pauline Murphy, Cheryl Lynn, Carolyn Norton, Julia Dodd, Darren Wales, Samuel Kidd, Wynn Hammond, Alex Kolter, Leah Blackburn, Caroline Knight, Jerry Wood, Carol Wallace, Bruce Geiss, Abigail Jackson, Elijah Spaeder, Esther Moore, Kim Todd, Chris Howe and Sydney Milner.
I may have to conclude I just can’t keep up with La Plata County anymore. I hadn’t quite gotten to the December Leadership La Plata session, and now the January session has already taken place.
So I’ll start with December and pick up January next week.
Karen Barger, owner of Seasons Rotisserie and Grill, and Beth Drum, senior vice president of Alpine Bank, organized the session, which focused on business in the county. But it wasn’t the standard idea of business, it was centered on the art of negotiations, the art of communication and thinking on your feet.
Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, served as the moderator for the day, which, serendipitously for this column, was held at the new Mercury campus. (It’s amazing how often it just happens that way in a column, with no planning by yours truly. Really!)
The leadership skills training session was led by Jack D. Turner, who asked them to think about why they are involved with their organizations and lives. Being based at Mercury made the field trip to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory a snap. LLP Alumna Kelsey Lovelace gave the class a behind-the-scenes tour that was not only interesting, it was delicious.
Melissa Glick, the CEO of Think Network Technologies, is a graduate of Chicago’s Second City Training Center, the largest school of improvisation and sketch comedy in the world. She taught “Improv in Business is no Joke,” and while the class did have plenty of laughs during the presentation, they learned that a response of “Yes, and,” will keep the conversation lively and interesting, as opposed to “Yes, but,” which can shut people down.
The day ended with a showcase of the diversity of the local business community. The panel included Roger Zalneraitis, the executive director of the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance; Rich Hillyer, second generation owner of Southwest Ag; Trent Peterson, vice president of GCC Energy; Karen Midkiff, chief development officer of the Mercy, Health Foundation; and Carrie Whitley from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and director of the Tour Colorado Association.
Celebrating January white anniversaries are Jeff and Deborah Wells, Greg and Marilyn Farley, Eric and Debbe Speck, Stephen and Donna Bowles, V.J. and Mackie Headrick and LeRoy and Ellen Williamson.
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