Habitat makes habit of change

New owner worked to rebuild her life after being homeless

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor



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Evergreen Habitat has three houses under construction and plans in 2013 to purchase and rehabilitate three houses in foreclosure, said Josh Townsley, executive director. The nonprofit started building in Clark County in 1991.

Partners in Evergreen’s mission include Grocery Outlet. Barry and Nancy Sullivan said this is the sixth house where they have stocked the home with $300 in groceries and given the homeowner a $100 gift card.

Keeping with tradition, Duane Sich of the Friends of the Carpenter gave the Adams family a cross made in the nonprofit’s woodworking shop. He said about 400 crosses have been given to new owners of Habitat houses around America.

Each dedication includes a house blessing, and the Rev. Bruce Armstrong offered the prayer Sunday.

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Just like George Bailey in the movie classic "It's a Wonderful Life," Evergreen Habitat for Humanity keeps building homes for humble Americans.

On Sunday, the nonprofit's 25th house was dedicated, and owner Christi Adams wept when thanking all those who made it happen.

"We came from a homeless shelter," Adams said, her children, Cheyenne, 9, and Brendon, 7, at her side.

The house is at the corner of 49th Street and 19th Avenue in Minnehaha.

As in all Habitat houses, the owner must have a job and must put in sweat equity, and Adams, a single mom, worked close to 400 hours on the house. She was joined by more than 100 volunteers, led by construction manager Kris Cowan.

The mortgage payment is about $550 a month. Adams is a customer service representative at Care Medical & Rehabilitation Equipment.

Adams said those she worked along side of "have really become my family. … You've changed our lives."

"I'm so sure you've changed people's lives, too," said Susan Riley, president of the Evergreen Habitat board. She was referring to volunteers who say the experience is enriching, if not life-changing.

Brilliant sunshine bathed the occasion and the 1,200-square-foot house (three bedrooms, two bathrooms), which cost about $75,000 to build. Crews started in early October and hit their goal of finishing in 2012.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans donated $55,000 to the project. Frank Shuman of Thrivent said the financial services organization has contributed $174 million nationwide in the past eight years for Habitat houses and will contribute another $7 million in 2013. He said members are encouraged to "live generously."

Adams took time to thank her friend,

Lindsay Griffin, for encouraging her to apply for a home. Griffin, who sits on the Habitat Family Selection Committee, earned a Habitat house in Orchards a year ago.

Adams also hugged her case manager, Teri Owen, who works for Second Step Housing.

Owen said Adams worked her way from homelessness to transitional housing to her new home.

"It's been a roller coaster for Christi," Owen said. "It (the new home) is going to create a new normal for her and her family."

"Welcome to the neighborhood. We live up the street," Terry Sutfin said to Adams at the celebration. He's lived in the Minnehaha neighborhood since 1975. Another Habitat house will be built behind the Adams house.

Nine-year-old Cheyenne was asked what she likes best about her house. "That I get my own room," she said.

Asked her favorite feature of the home, Adams said, "I don't know if there is one thing. You love it all."

Oh, yes, just like in the movie, Brenda Tiefenthaler presented Adams with bread, so the house would not know hunger; salt, for flavor in life; and wine, "so that joy and prosperity will reign forever."