Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County
building on new community partnerships
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A year in overview...
This mighty little Habitat for Humanity affiliate broke ground on the biggest construction project in its history with the 52-home development at Telegraph Road during FY 2019/2020. A project this size typically overflows with challenges in the best of times, but last year, the challenges were extraordinary and profound.
Building on Faith became even more meaningful as the need to social distance and keep our loved ones safe was suddenly the number one daily preoccupation, despite critical volunteer and fundraising implications. How do we fulfill our promise of a simple, decent, affordable home to those who now need it the most when people cannot gather in His name?
Along with Faith come blessings and Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County is blessed. It’s blessed by a Board of Directors who is committed to accepting the challenge of an uncertain future, a staff who is willing to adapt to an entirely different work environment and expectations, a volunteer base who is ready to wear a mask along with their toolbelt while working alone, and blessed with donors who never stopped giving.
-John Moon, Executive Director
A Word from Gina Stark, Board Vice-President
This was a year that no one could have anticipated. Many of us were pushed to limits we could not have imagined. We’ve had loved ones lose jobs, community members lose businesses, and friends get infected with COVID-19. For many of us, there was something to fall back on; we had family to support us, or we had a safe and secure home. However, many in our community were without a safety net.
We at Habitat knew many challenges lay ahead. As we navigated these uncharted waters, we knew we had to keep building. Families were relying on us to complete homes on Telegraph Road and in Sudden Valley. We also had to make sure all of our workers were safe while completing this important task. As an organization, we needed to stay solvent and ensure our employees still had jobs, whether it was at our Habitat Store, our construction sites, or our administrative office.
We were able to achieve these goals, but we did not do this alone — for that reason, this was also a year of gratitude.
“As we navigated these uncharted waters, we knew we had to keep building.”
So many volunteers stayed committed to us and came to our store or our build sites every week—or as often as was allowed. Our donors gave during our events, our fall drive, and all throughout the year. Our staff continued to work tirelessly putting together our first ever 100% on-line fundraiser, and producing one-of-a-kind videos highlighting our store, our families, and our beautiful and energy-efficient homes.
This year was filled with many challenges, unknowns, and sometimes sadness. But mostly, it was filled with perseverance, hope, gratitude, and happiness.
I want to thank everyone who was a part of the Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County family. Whether you were a donor, a volunteer, or an employee—thank you for believing in the mission and vision of this organization.
Most importantly, I want to thank the families who trusted us with their dream of homeownership, and who worked side by side with us to make that dream come true.
Building a net-zero ready house that is more affordable to own than renting an apartment is an incredible achievement; this year, we built 9 homes that are just that.
Climate Action Task Force
The City of Bellingham made national headlinesthis past year, after announcing their new and ambitious plan to address our part in the climate crisis. The new plan strives for 100% renewable energy by 2035. By partnering with local solar companies, and using Habitat Passive techniques, we at Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County are working hard to build a community that creates more energy than it consumes.
Perfecting our Habitat Passive Techniques
Eight years ago we built our first Habitat Passive home. By using passive house techniques, we are able to combine the highest possible energy efficiency standards with easy-to-teach construction methods, such as triple pane windows, air to air heat exchange, and a highly insulated envelope. The result is a home that is 90% more efficient to heat, while staying true to our goal of building simple, affordable homes. With energy bills that are less than $20 a month, our homes stay permanently affordable for our homebuyers.
PSE Grant and Western Solar
With our Habitat Passive design keeping the interior warm for our homebuyers at our Telegraph Townhome Community, the remaining energy needs will be met by solar power. Our partners at Kulshan Community Land Trust were awarded a $75,000 grant from Puget Sound Energy, that will provide individual power for the first two units at Telegraph Road. The first round of panels were installed on 1A by Western Solar, with more to come in 2021.
Community Solar and Workshops with Ecotech
This year we hosted 6 free and open to the public Go Solar workshops with Ecotech. Attendees got a chance to learn about solar technology and how they could join the solar movement. For every solar system sold, Ecotech donated one panel to the Telegraph Townhome Community. Thanks to Ecotech, we now have 20 panels that will soon be installed, and $11,000 in contributions to help with the installation. These panels will provide all of our community power, including the streets, walk ways, signage, as well as the bike storage area.
Our Super Air-tight Bramble Home
One of our proudest 2020 accomplishments was scoring a 0.8 on a blower door test for the Bramble Way home in Sudden Valley. The blower door test uses a fan to measure the air exchange rate and determines how much air the home leaks. A score of 0.8 means that if you added up all of the holes in the home that were made by plumbers, electricians, and other contractors, those holes would add up to less than a quarter in diameter. We are incredibly proud of our Construction Manager Paul Stromdahl. Not only did he build a beautiful, and incredibly energy efficient home, he did it with an all volunteer crew.
Homebuyer Story: The Guzman Lopez Family
In the 1980s, Frumencio Guzman traveled from Oaxaca, Mexico, to Fresno, California, to pick strawberries as a migrant worker. He made the journey between countries, traveling back and forth, looking for seasonal agricultural work.
Every year, following various crops and growing seasons, he found himself working farther north. Eventually, he heard from friends that Washington State had a better climate and more opportunities. He and a few friends pooled their money to buy a car so that they could drive from California to Washington. They eventually settled in Deming, Washington, along the Nooksack River. Farm work around Deming was plentiful, and there was a shortage of labor. At the time, Frumencio was only one of 12 workers in that area picking strawberries.
Agricultural workers in the U.S. often live in small cabins in the fields, without bathrooms, sometimes without running water. In an effort to get a better job working indoors, Frumencio found a job in the seafood industry. The better pay allowed him and some friends to move into a one-bedroom apartment.
worked until she was eight months pregnant with their first daughter.
“Finally, we’re going to have a home. We won’t have to worry about winter and the cold coming into the house. It’s the first time I feel like we’ll have a real home”
Today, Frumencio and Juliana work many temporary jobs throughout the year, including work in the fields. Each summer Frumencio sleeps just a few hours at night so that he can work as many hours as he can.
The family lives with their four children in a dilapidated mobile home, which is now beyond repair. One winter they lived without hot water. Friends helped them get a new water heater and have helped with some repairs, but there’s little they can do to improve their failing dwelling.
Juliana did her sweat-equity hours working in the Habitat Store, doing whatever jobs were needed. They will be one of the first families to move into Phase 1 of the Habitat Telegraph Townhome project.
“Finally, we’re going to have a home. We won’t have to worry about winter and the cold coming into the house. It’s the first time I feel like we’ll have a real home,” said a beaming Juliana.
Women Build 2020
Lowe’s International Women Build Week
We‘d like to thank Lowe’s Home Improvement for sponsoring the 2020 International Women Build Week with a $5,000 grant to support construction at the Telegraph Townhomes. Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s have partnered internationally and locally since 1991 with the same mission: empowering women with the skills needed in repairing and building their own homes, while unifying communities in the process. Lowe’s not only donated to the mission, but sent out an amazing crew of Women Builders from our local Lowe’s affiliate to volunteer on March 7th, 2020. They built decks alongside Habitat for Humanity volunteers, homebuyers and Bellingham City Council members Holly Huthman, Lisa Anderson and Michael Lilliquist.
Homeowner Story: The Hubbard Family
By the time she was 18, Brynne and her mother Dawn had been forced to move at least 10 times. “As a single mom, I would have to move from place to place,” Dawn said, “to be able to afford what’s available at that time. And working three jobs, you don’t get a lot of time with your child.”
For Brynne, this meant more than just limited time with her only parent—moving meant new schools, new neighbors; it meant leaving old friends behind and the anxiety of finding new ones. “It took a toll emotionally and socially,” Brynne said.
That instability followed Brynne into adulthood, and for almost a year, while living in Portland, she experienced homelessness.
Everything changed when she got pregnant with Karma, 15 years ago.
“I wanted the stability for my kid growing up that I didn’thave when I was a kid,” Brynne told us, “I knew what it was not to have that stability… so I found an apartment—the cheapest in Whatcom County, pretty much.” Dawn moved in shortly after to help her daughter and granddaughter.
The apartment sat above a mechanics shop. The building lacked insulation and was difficult to heat, and the electrical system was old and prone to fires. There was septic leaking in the backyard, and Brynne, who suffered from allergies, was constantly sick from mold exposure. It was likely an illegal apartment, but they could afford it.
During that time, Brynne saw an ad for Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County, and decided to apply. “The worst they could do is say no,” she thought.
“This house that we have now, I absolutely love. I could never imagine leaving or moving again. For the first time in my life I actually feel safe,”
Fortunately for the Hubbards, after six years in that apartment, and a lifetime of living in substandard conditions, their hard work started to pay off. It began when Dawn got a job with Bellingham Public Schools as a custodian, and was able to cut down to one job, from three.
And then a call came just before Christmas from a woman named Faith, telling them that they had been approved for a Habitat home. “You couldn’t imagine a better Christmas present than that,” Dawn said. When Brynne found out she was pregnant again, and would soon be having another daughter, she decided to call her Faith.
The groundbreaking for the Hubbard home took place during our Whatcom Habitat’s first ever Women Build event. “Even now, to this day, we find it empowering,” Brynne said, “Karma was 5 at the time, and saw all the women work together. It was awesome to see all these women, showing my daughter how strong women can be, that they can do anything. And I loved my daughter being there seeing that. Seeing how strong she could be. “
The Hubbards have now been in their home for 10 years. During that time, Dawn suffered a shoulder injury and was let go of her job, but, thankfully, they were still able to afford the mortgage. And when the pandemic came, they had a safe, affordable home to shelter in place. Not only is their home a place to weather life’s storms, it’s a monthly investment in their future.
“This house that we have now,” Brynne said, “I absolutely love. I could never imagine leaving or moving again. For the first time in my life I actually feel safe, which not a lot of people understand. I’m very happy my kids have a safe, stable environment that they can grow up in.”
Build Community Day
Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County’s 10-day Home Builders Blitz and Build Community Day, inspired and funded by the Whatcom Community Foundation’s Project Neighborly Program, made October 2019 a huge success. We were joined at our Telegraph Townhomes site by the Lettered Streets Covenant Church, Local 70 Carpenters Union, Wells Fargo Bank, Highline Construction, Skeers Construction, and close to 50 volunteers. We also hosted a political forum to discuss the housing crisis in Bellingham, which included then candidates for office, April Barker, Seth Fleetwood, Tony Larson and Satpal Sidhu. A huge thank you to all of the teams, volunteers, sponsors, and politicians who made this event possible.
Homebuyer Story: Linda Morgan
Linda Morgan moved to Bellingham in 1975 to study Sociology and Criminology at Western. She worked as a counselor at a work-release center after graduating, helping young people rehabilitate into society. Unfortunately, her program was defunded only a couple of years into her career, “I got an opportunity to work for the city and I went for it,” she said, “I like the outdoors; I’m a hard worker.”
Linda worked for the City of Bellingham’s Park Department for 28 years. While she enjoyed the work, it took a toll on her body; she suffered a great deal of nerve damage on her arms and legs, has undergone knee surgery, and will need a hip replacement soon.
In the years following her disability, Linda experienced a great deal of hardship. For 14 of those years she tried life out in Toronto, but the lack of independence put her in difficult situations which led to her living in her car for some time. She eventually decided to come back home to Bellingham, to be with her friends and family.
On arriving, Linda expected to be able to reestablish herself here, and that she’d be able to afford a duplex or a modular home. But Bellingham had changed. According to a Whatcom County Association of Realtors report, the year Linda left Bellingham, the median price for a home in Whatcom County was $150,000. That number doubled by the time Linda came back, and hovers around $450,000 today.
“I went to school. I had good training with the city. I had a lot of good skills. You don’t ever think it’s going to happen to you–that all of a sudden…you’re in this part of your life where you don’t have enough to live.”
Linda was able to live in subsidized housing for a time, “But every month they would raise the rent, like $50, $100.” Eventually the apartment complex where she lived decided to completely remodel, and gave her an ultimatum, she could either move to a more expensive unit, or move out. Linda was lucky to have a friend who let her rent a room, “Otherwise I’d be in the streets,” she said.
“I went to school. I had good training with the city. I had a lot of good skills. You don’t ever think it’s going to happen to you–that all of a sudden…you’re in this part of your life where you don’t have enough to live. I never thought I’d be in this position. I’m very lucky now that I’ll be able to have a home.”
Linda fulfilled her hours working at the Habitat Store and by working on her and her neighbor’s future homes at the Telegraph Townhome site. “Everybody has their own journey and we’re kind of in the same boat in a sense,” she said, “So, I think it’s gonna be a nice little community.”
“I have the best job in the world because I get to work with incredible volunteers.” – Paul Stromdahl, Construction Manager
Volunteer Spotlight: Noriko Lao
This year, our Habitat family experienced a tremendous loss. Noriko Lao, a devoted volunteer of over 20 years, passed away shortly after celebrating her 80th birthday. Noriko devoted her life to helping others, from building homes, to advocating for families in need, and even volunteering her knowledge as a tutor. She was a regular at all of our construction sites. Even at her age, she could keep up with the youngest volunteers and was usually the first to show up, and the first to start work again after the lunch break. She will be greatly missed by Habitat and our community. Her devotion to others will be with us forever.
A Word from Habitat Store Management
Exciting times are ahead for the Habitat for Humanity Store, all thanks to the positive and efficient culture our hard-working, caring and dynamic staff has created. Each person from our diverse staff brings something different to Habitat’s mission.
From long serving employees, to college students, and full time volunteers, our staff continues to set new standards for how our store operates. Our receiving room has never been more efficient, our sales floor has never been more organized, and most importantly, our staff has never been more unified on future ambitions.
This year has been a challenge for everyone—making Habitat’s mission of building affordable housing more important than ever. As a vital tool to support the mission, the store must continue to grow as a reliable resource. Without the help of our loyal and amazing customers and volunteers, the real heroes of our store, it would not be where it is at today. From the entire staff, we say thank you!
Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County extends our deepest thanks to everyone who has donated this past year. Thank you to the thousands who made individual contributions, or dropped off their gently used items at our donation dock, as well as the members of our Carpenters Club, who contribute monthly. We’d also like to thank the many Foundations and Community Supporters who share our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to call home. We couldn’t do what we do without your support!
Bank of America Charitable Foundation
Allison and Beezer-Kudla Fund
The Eleanor and Henry Jansen Foundation
Peoples Bank Community Grant
Rotary Club of Bellingham Foundation
US Bank Foundation
Washington Federal Foundation
Wells Fargo Foundation
Whatcom Community Foundation
Umpqua Bank Charitable Foundation
Dr. Lloyd and Kay Chapman Charitable Foundation
B2B Writing and Consulting
Bank of the Pacific
Barlean’s Organic Oils
Belcher Swanson Law Firm PLLC
Bellingham Coin Shop
Bellingham Millwork Supply
Beneficial State Bank
Budget Blinds of Bellingham
Building Industry Association- BIAWC
Cascade Natural Gas
Caz Energy Services
Community Food Co-Op
Construction Supply Company, Inc.
Dow/Dupont Chemical Corporation
Ethos West Construction Inc.
GeoTest Services INC.
General Teamsters’ Local 231
GK Knutson Inc.
GTS Interior Supply
Habitat for Humanity Cars for Homes
Habitat Home Improvement
Habitat Home Inspections LLC
Hardware Sales, Inc.
Highline Construction LLC
Interior Doors & More
John E Goerlich Charitable Trust Agency
Judd & Black
Kulshan Brewing Co
Len Honcoop Gravel Inc.
Microsoft Giving Campaign
Nicole Staron LLC
North Puget Sound Carpenters Union #70
Northern Concrete and Contracting
Northwest Carpenters Local 70
Northwest Ecological Services, LLC
Northwest Surveying & GPS
Northwest Youth Services
Overhead Door Co. of Bellingham
Point Roberts Press
Price & Visser Millwork LLC
Profile Construction Inc.
Rector’s Vacuum Inc.
Rice Insurance, LLC
Roosendaal-Honcoop Construction Inc.
S & S Concrete Construction, Inc.
Samson Rope Technologies
Seeking Health LLC
Simple Box Storage
St James Presbyterian Church
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Stremler Gravel Inc.
Topside Roofing & Siding
Trust Company of America
United Rentals Branch 921
Valley Plumbing & Electric Inc.
West Coast Windows
WestEdge Credit Union
Western Forest Products
Whatcom County Association of Realtors
Whatcom Gutter Company
Whatcom Land Title
Wilson Engineering LLC
Wise Buys Thrift Store
Yale Residential Locks
Yorkston Oil Co Inc.
Weeks the Habitat Store Shut Down
By the Numbers
Value Created through Volunteer Hours
Active House Builds
Store Donation Drop-offs
Eli Mackiewicz, President
Gina Stark, Vice President
Tiffany Blair, Secretary
Mike Roberts, Treasurer
Ryan Kinney, Director
Tim Johnson, Director
Regina Sabino, Director
Ross Quigley, Director
Marlin Hendricks, Director
Alexis West, Donation Ambassador
Alic Tung, Procurement Manager
Ashley Winter, Social Media Coordinator
Chris vanStaalduinen, Construction Manager
Deborah Johnson, Office Manager
Eli Malm, Donation Ambassador
Eliza Hortegas, Build Crew
Issac Moreno, Donation Ambassador
Fred Sheppard, Resource Development Manager
Hillary Pritchard, Community Outreach Director
John Moon, Executive Director
Jon Parker, Truck Lead
Joe Madden, Receiving Lead
Kenoi Napalapalai, Volunteer Crew Lead
Malie Laolagi, Store Manager
Marcelo Pratesi, Communications Manager
Paul Stromdahl, Construction Manager
Pasquilta Martinez, Donation Ambassador
Shelly Comstock, Volunteer Services Coordinator
Tyla Reyes, Pricing Lead