Family's Habitat house built largely by women volunteers

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor



Excerpt from Deseré Bastidas’ Habitat application letter on July 13, 2010:

“I would give anything for my girls to grow up in a stable home and start and finish their school years in the same school district. I feel we want what any parents want, to give our children more than we had, and we feel that this opportunity is what we need to make that happen for them.”

Did you know?

Since its beginning in 1998, Women Build has constructed 1,900 Habitat houses in America and 30 countries. In May, an estimated 10,000 women worked on house sites around the country.

Major contributors to the Habitat house were Lowe’s, Ed Lynch, Umpqua Bank and the Kaiser Foundation.

Tears glistened in Deseré Bastidas' eyes as she spoke Sunday from the porch of her brand-new house in Vancouver's Lincoln neighborhood.

"It amazes me how so many people cared," said the wife and mother of two girls. "Without Habitat, this would never happen."

And so, Evergreen Habitat for Humanity dedicated the 24th house the nonprofit has built in Clark County. In two weeks, the group will start another four houses.

"It's gorgeous. It's beyond my dreams. I love it," said Deseré, who helped build the house along with husband, Miguel, and about 100 volunteers over the course of a year. The house is at the southeast corner of Lincoln Avenue and 39th Street.

This was a Women Build project, and women volunteers put in 1,950 hours of the 3,011 hours it took to make the two-story, 1,300-square-foot house a reality. There are three bedrooms, and sisters Arianna, 5, and nearly 3-year-old Aleeysa will share a room because their mother says they are inseparable.

About 100 well-wishers were at the dedication Sunday.

The project is more amazing because the women also raised the money to build the home, said Josh Townsley, executive director of Evergreen Habitat for Humanity. Fundraising brought in more than $60,000. The lot was donated by the city of Vancouver and the Vancouver Housing Authority.

Habitat requires applicants to provide sweat equity and to be employed. Deseré has a retail job, and Miguel is a courier. They had been paying more than $900 a month for an east Vancouver apartment and now will pay about $550 a month on their interest-free mortgage.

The house is so new, the family moved their possessions in after the ceremony. For the past few days, Lowe's employees were hustling to get in the landscaping. With bright green sod and hostas, hydrangeas, daisies, boxwood and a Japanese maple tree, the blue house looked like a home.

"One more victory over substandard housing," said Susan Riley, board president of the local Habitat.

Habitat families are paired with advocates to help along the way and the Bastidas family was paired with Brenda and Jim Tiefenthaler.

As is now tradition, the couple followed the script from the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" and presented the new homeowners with bread (sustenance), salt (flavor) and a bottle of wine "so that joy and prosperity will reign forever," Brenda Tiefenthaler said.

Other gifts included a wooden decorative cross from Friends of the Carpenter, $300 of groceries from Grocery Outlet and a hanging quilt depicting the home. Oh yes, and Minnie Mouse stuffed animals for the girls.

Those who worked on the house said the experience was powerful.

"It was spirit that built the house," said Gerri Colburn who served as site supervisor for much of the project.

Camille Wright of Vancouver, who put more than 100 hours into the house, said, "It's just a tremendous day. I had a great time. I learned an incredible amount about building a house."

Miguel Bastidas said he also loves the new house.

Told the shade of the blue paint on the exterior looks sharp, he replied, "Deseré picked it out."