Habitat needs helping hand to help others

Photos by Ray Lee, for the Redoubt Reporter. Above and below, volunteers,  from the central Kenai Peninsula and from the Lower 48 with Habitat for Humanity’s Care-A-Van program, work on a build site in Kenai last month. When finished, this will be Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity’s 18th home.

Photos by Ray Lee, for the Redoubt Reporter. Above and below, volunteers, from the central Kenai Peninsula and from the Lower 48 with Habitat for Humanity’s Care-A-Van program, work on a build site in Kenai last month. When finished, this will be Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity’s 18th home.

By Ray Lee

Redoubt Reporter

The warm effervescence of a sunny afternoon in late June illuminated the construction of a new residence in Kenai, and even though a shadow would soon fall on the site, it wouldn’t be enough to darken the mood irrevocably.

The project, on Second Avenue in Kenai, is the site of the newest home built by Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity, continuing its mission to provide safe, adequate housing for families in need.

The location also, unfortunately, became the site of a theft, when a person or persons broke into a shed on the property and stole habitat hammering$1,300 worth of tools.

“In all our 18 builds we’ve never had anything like that happen — knock on wood. We’ve never had so much as a broken window or anything. It’s so discouraging,” said Sharon Radtke, executive director.

It appears the thief or thieves knew what they were doing, expertly breaking into the shed and taking the highest-value equipment. The theft was reported to police, but wasn’t allowed to stop work from happening. New tools were purchased, and volunteers went back to work.

The initial week of construction was helped by a crew of Habitat “Care-A-Van” volunteers — people who drive to Habitat build sites to assist in construction.

Men and women worked in tandem in every direction one might turn, from bracing a beam for measurements all the way to running the electric saw for halving boards. Some were from the central peninsula, while others were from all across the country.  The majority of the work force was composed of retirees and people willing to contribute to benefit the families in need.

“It brings out … the camaraderie, and you make new friends,” said one retiree, a Care-A-Vanner from South Dakota. “Now that we’re retired, we have the time. That’s something we have that we can give much more generously than others, more so than younger people. Time is the most valuable thing that almost anybody has. We have more, so we can give it.”

Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity is a small organization with a big goal. The local group is a chapter of a worldwide organization. Individuals involved in this organization are helping to build homes for families in need throughout the U.S.

“The international overall mission is helping neighbors one home at a time,” Radtke said. “The mission is giving a hand up, not a hand out, partnering with people in the local communities to build homes. Neighbors helping neighbors.”

For a family to qualify for obtaining a home through Habitat for Humanity, they must be in a state of living that’s unclean, unhealthy and/or in any other way unfitting. However, financial stability is essential. And the families are expected to pitch in, too, by providing 500 hours of personal aid in the process, whether it be laying floorboards, nailing frames and sawing wood, or less-technical tasks like helping pass out lunch.

The majority of the volunteers aren’t required to have a background in construction, just the time and willingness to help. Along with general volunteers, there are many companies and professionals within the community contributing to the projects, as well, notably with plumbing, electricity, cement work and donations of materials.

“We mostly get volunteers, but we hire professionals for electricity and plumbing,” Radtke said.

Professionals monitor the construction and direct workers where needed. The houses are built efficiently and sturdily and, as with any other building, are on par with general building safety codes and regulations.

Habitat for Humanity was founded on the Kenai Peninsula in 1990. The organization maintains a workable fund for materials through contributions from various sources. Because the group holds only one or two fundraisers a year, it relies heavily on donations of labor and materials, and financial contributions are put to good use, too. When a home is finished, every house payment by the new occupants is contributed to the next construction project, creating a revolving fund for build projects, which is added to by donations and support of volunteers. An active, nine-member board oversees the organization and often put their own hands to work at build sites.

“It’s a wonderful group of volunteers. Most of them are not retired, they have other jobs, but they do an excellent job at keeping this board going,” Radtke said. “Every single Habitat family living in the Habitat homes can tell you it has changed their lives. It’s a family, but it also branches out. If you have kids and you’re a part of this, the kids learn to give back. You’re really helping the community.”

For more information on Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity, visit http://hfhcentralpeninsula.org/ or contact Radtke at shrad@ptialaska.net or 262-7534. Financial donations can be sent to P.O. Box 2907, Soldotna, AK, 99669.

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