Building a house to provide others a home
In the midst of the Nevada desert just north of Reno, a small number of modest homes line a quiet street, each structure progressively more complete than the next.
Through countless hours of volunteer sweat and labor, Truckee Meadows Habitat for Humanity is building 13 homes for 13 families in need ” and the Kings Beach United Methodist Church is one community dedicated to the effort.
“It feels like such a drop in the bucket if you do one house,” said Pastor Kathryn Dunning Wednesday as she spackled the unfinished edges of a closet. “But that one house is a home.”
The 1,000-square-foot home smelled of fresh paint. Brand new, ready-to-finish oak cabinets lined the kitchen walls as the distant sound of hammers and drills drifted through open windows.
“It’s just so cool how many people come and put in a little bit of time,” Dunning said. “It makes such a huge difference.”
The idea to participate in Habitat for Humanity arose when a friend suggested building houses about a year ago, Dunning said. When she brought up the idea at the following Sunday morning service, her pitch received a good response.
The “small, but mighty” church has been volunteering at the Truckee Meadows Habitat for Humanity project once a month ever since.
“We do a very little bit in the big scheme of things, but it’s something that keeps us aware of hands-on mission work,” Dunning said.
The 1,000- to 1,100-square-foot homes are built from a simple, but quality plan.
Habitat for Humanity chooses families through a rigorous process that entails applications, interviews and background checks. Once approved, the family must put 500 hours of “sweat equity” into their home or another Habitat project, and pay off a modest loan.
“The ‘sweat equity’ is the good part because that gives [the families] ownership of it,” said volunteer Tom Ryder.
For the church, the Habitat work is an avenue to actively addressing social justice issues, Dunning said.
“We as Christians cannot be content as long as there are people in the world who have too much, while there are those who do not have enough,” Dunning said.
It’s more than charity because it addresses the root of the cause, she said. The families have to work for the home and it creates a community of homeowners.
“Home ownership makes a difference,” said volunteer John Foster. “They are invested in the community … They take an interest in the neighborhood because they own a house … If you’re a homeowner, you have to make the change in your neighborhood.”
Though the building project is in the Reno area, Dunning said it draws attention to housing issues in the Tahoe Basin.
“Maybe more people doing this will start thinking of alternatives and what we can do at the lake,” she said. “It’s just raising consciousness about solutions to the housing problem.”
“And it’s fun, let’s not forget that part,” said volunteer Al Hartman. “One of these five-day house-raising conferences would be a fun, alternative vacation.”