Representatives of the Manhattan area Habitat for Humanity hope the start of construction on the organization’s 23rd home here helps to re-establish the organization’s purpose and mission.
That mission, which will be played out in construction of a home for the Crabtree family in Ogden, emphasizes volunteerism as a cornerstone of the construction process. It will be the first Habitat house built in the area in three years.
Habitat started in 1994, utilizing volunteers from the area to help fellow community members get back on their feet. In recent projects, though, difficulties in getting a sufficient number of volunteers forced Habitat to use professional subcontractors. That in turn forced up the cost paid by prospective home-owners.
“We’re trying to reset the volunteer base by going back to our basic mission,” said Habitat executive director Shehanna Adams. “Instead of having subcontractors come in, we’re hoping to get more experienced volunteers.”
When a family is selected to be the recipient of a Habitat house, they are required to put in a set amount of work hours. Beyond that, though, the last four homes Habitat built in this area have cost homeowners between $58,000 and $74,000 on top of their sweat equity hours. That was due to a need to sub-contract portions of the work to contractors rather than using volunteers.
According to Adams, sweat equity requires that every family member over the age of 18 work 250 hours to help offset costs. Of those 250 hours, 40 percent must be spent on the home. The remaining hours can be split in other areas of Habitat-related service.
Nikki Crabtree, the recipient of this year’s Habitat home, has already put in a large chunk of volunteer hours toward her house.
“For me, being required to work on your own home makes sure the homeowner appreciates what they have…the homeowner is not just getting a discount,” said Crabtree. “To me it’s only fair and a great thing.”
Crabtree saw a flyer at the Ogden Community Center for the Habitat application process. Before seeing the flier, she had heard of Habitat but didn’t know what it was.
“It’s one of those things where you don’t really know anything about it and you don’t expect them to pick you,” Crabtree said. “I’m so thankful that Habitat is out there to help people like me get situated…I want people to realize what the organization is really about.”
Pat McCoy a Habitat volunteer since the organization’s start here in 1994, has worked on 18 houses over the years. He describes Habitat as not a “handout program but a hands-up program” that enables the recipient to be engaged in the building process.
Finding more dedicated volunteers like McCoy and raising an interest in the organization has been the toughest thing, according to Adams.
“We’re trying to reestablish ourselves in Manhattan since our last builds were in Ogden,” Adams said. Without a recent visual presence in Manhattan…we’ve been out of sight out of mind,” she said.
The group is working to raise awareness through social media such as Facebook in the Manhattan area. Members expect to begin foundation work in February.
“We have 195 friends on Facebook,” Adams said. “We’re working to use it to promote the mission, volunteer committee and restore.”
Habitat draws construction materials from a 9,000 square foot store it owns on Farm Bureau Road. It accepts donations from the community and sells products to contractors and residential buyers at a fraction of the retail cost. They have many items including building materials, furniture, fixtures and appliances.
The facility, which Habitat calls a “ReStore,” also has a tax deduction option for homeowners who donate items such as kitchen cabinets during a remodel. It is open to the public 52 hours a month and is volunteer run. ReStore profits go to helping purchase additional items for upcoming builds.
Crabtree was surprised by the amount she was able to personalize her home.
“I was able to pick out the floor plan, choosing an open concept; paint; counter tops and types of floors,” she said. “I’ve been really involved and have been getting educated as were building the house.”
Crabtree’s children, who are two and five years old, have been assigned jobs such as gardening and painting to do their part.
Adams encourages everyone and anyone to volunteer, regardless of age.
“We have openings for unskilled volunteers who want to learn…we’re here to give them the opportunity,” Adams said. “Even if it is an elderly person who wants to help that can only hand out cold water, it is as important as swinging a hammer.”
This year Habitat plans to utilize contracting companies to supervise the projects instead of relying on them primarily to construct the houses. Crabtree’s family can also help to offset her sweat equity hours by doing work on her house.
“My kids will be able to say they helped build our home and that means a lot,” Crabtree said. “I want them to know with a little hard work, anything is possible.