A place to call home

Evergreen Habitat for Humanity presents house keys for 30th time in its history

By Craig Brown, Columbian metro editor

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From a block away, it was evident Sunday afternoon the West family was having a house party.

There were balloons and cookies. The lawn was manicured, and the bright red front door was festooned with party ribbons.

And what a party it was: After two years of working with Habitat for Humanity, the Wests received the keys to their new home, in a quiet cul-de-sac off Northeast Covington Road.

Dad Doug West, son, Kody, 17, and daughter Cheyenne, 15, can move in as soon as the paperwork closes, probably in two weeks.

"It's everything … a sense of serenity," said West, a truck driver. "I would have never been able to do this on my own, no way, no how."

Sunday's ceremony marked Evergreen Habitat for Humanity's 30th home dedication in its 22-year history, said Josh Townsley, the group's executive director. The charitable organization, made famous by Jimmy Carter, provides a way for deserving families to partner with donors and volunteers and earn their way to homeownership through financial commitment and sweat equity.

Doug and Kody West both put in many hours building the home, which has taken several months to construct. (At 15, Cheyenne is a year too young to volunteer.)

Brenda Tiefenthaler, a Habitat for Humanity board member, helped the Wests get approved for their home. "We pretty much knew right away they were a deserving family," she said. To qualify, families have to submit income tax returns showing their work history and income, plus prove they have no outstanding court judgments. They also have to be able to contribute to the home's construction.

"It's a help up, not a handout," she said.

For the Wests, living in the spotless three-bedroom gray house with white trim will improve their quality of life. Kody will finally be able to get his own bedroom and quit sharing with his father. Cheyenne will be able to have her dog, Cinder, over for visits. The rottweiler has to live with Cheyenne's mother because their current landlord doesn't allow dogs.

West and Townsley took time Sunday to publicly thank various donors, including Ginn Realty Group, nine local Presbyterian and Methodist churches and the Vancouver Grocery Outlet store. West gave each donor a bear hug.

Evergreen Habitat for Humanity expects to dedicate its next house in late September. After that, the charity is joining with students and teachers at Mountain View and Evergreen high schools to build two homes during the upcoming school year.

That should mean more ceremonies like Sunday's, and more happy homeowners like West and his children.

"This is huge," West said, his voice choked with emotion. "(I'm) 45 years old. I've had people say you haven't made it until you own land.

"I own land."