The Santiago Reyes family came to Washington in 2006. They came to work in agriculture, on a raspberry farm in Lynden, Washington. Life in a small farm cabin was very difficult, especially in winter. There was a stove, electricity, and a small refrigerator, but no bathroom and no running water or heat. Today, Eli works as a painter at the Port of Bellingham.
It was the family’s connection to the Opportunity Council in Bellingham that they learned about Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County. Doors started to open for more stable housing. In 2010 the family moved to Bellingham, and applied for the Habitat program.
“When we applied to Habitat, we wanted to secure something for the family,” said Aracely. Eli and Aracely worked their sweat-equity hours in the Habitat Store when it was in Ferndale. “The ones who suffer the most are the kids. You always think more about your children than you do about yourself.”
The Santiago Reyes home, now 50% complete, is being built in Sudden Valley, a community of about 6,000 residents east of Bellingham, beside Lake Whatcom. Paul Stromdahl, Habitat’s Construction Manager on this project, is preparing to get the outside of the home ready for windows and siding, what’s known as “weathering in.”
“There have been different challenges as this project has gone along,” said Paul. “The site is deeply sloped, so you’re always working at an angle, trying to get the work done safely,” he added. “It’s also more difficult to work on a two-story house. We’ve not historically done two-story houses. So it’s different for our volunteers.”
The Santiago Reyes family can’t wait to move in. The family regularly visits and volunteers at the site of their future home.