Andy Koch is a musician, puppeteer, clown and balloon twister, thespian and director, entertainer, educator and advocate for the arts, and all-around-storyteller — he will also soon be a Habitat homebuyer.
At the time we spoke to Andy, a friend was sailing him to Point Roberts to perform as a clown and balloon twister. “I need more days like this,” he said, “Wednesday I was at the [Telegraph] job site; yesterday I was helping neighbors panel their back porch, and today, I’m sailing. Life is good.”
For over forty years, Andy has called Bellingham home. He fell in love with the area after going to Western to study theater. He helped build amphitheaters around town, did Shakespeare in the park, Greek plays, and of course, played music.
Andy settled in the Happy Valley area at that time. He rented a home from someone who owned a few properties around town. “I was kind of like his building super, I guess. Keeping track of the tenants and helping him with his rentals. We became good friends over the years.” The two had dinners, and barbecues together, and helped each other whenever they could.
He loved being around the university, close to music, theater and art shows. He would sublease his place when he went on tours. He also became a children’s entertainer and clown, holding puppet workshops with kids through the Allied Arts Education Project.
Andy lived in that house for 30 years. He called it home. His landlord told him he’d always have a place to live. He even told Andy he could keep the house someday when he passed on.
“Well, he passed away unexpectedly,” Andy said, “and his uncle got the place and sold it. Which is normal, I’ve got no regrets.” But this meant Andy was now without a place to live and the area of Bellingham he called home was no longer affordable.
Andy also had to downsize after 30 years in the same place. “So I took a bunch of stuff down to the Habitat Store, and I thought, ‘Gosh, they do homes for people huh?’” Andy filled out a form and turned it in right away, “And I kind of forgot about it. And then I get this call from them saying, ‘would you like to come to a meeting?’”
By that time Andy had situated himself in Ferndale “I found some friends that let me park my old motorhome behind a horse barn. Thank God. Because this is how people become homeless, you know? It happens to good people. I thought it would be happening to me.”
“It’s rustic but it’s beautiful. I can’t see any other houses, I can see Mount Baker when I walk out into the field. It’s a little wild but I like it. Ten years from now it might be nice to be living indoors again,” he said chuckling.
“This last winter I went through a lot of propane staying warm out there. That heat spell too was kind of crazy.” During normal times it would be easier for Andy to escape the cold, or the extreme heat, by staying at a friend’s house. “But with COVID too, that adds another twist to it all. Which also makes me feel so glad to be part of Habitat. The future is kind of exciting right now.”
“I wake up in the morning feeling good. I’m helping other people build their homes, which feels really good. I’m working towards eventually having my own place. I’m not gonna be living under a bridge when I’m in my seventies. What a blessing, I’m truly blessed.”
Along with working at Telegraph Townhome site, Andy is also fulfilling his Sweat Equity hours by providing music at Habitat events, like the Telegraph Townhome dedication. He will also be playing the piano and acoustic guitar at the Lairmont Manor, for this year’s Raise the Roof Auction cocktail party.