Kelly Klein grew up in Montana, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, located near Glacier National Park. “I’m mixed heritage,” she said, “My mom is Native American, a Blackfeet tribal member, and my dad is Jewish from New York City. My dad was in the Air Force. That’s how he met my mom in Montana. He was stationed there. I still have strong cultural ties to the Blackfeet.”
Kelly’s older sister, who also grew up on the reservation, eventually left with her husband and moved to Anacortes. Kelly visited her sister off and on, usually in the summer. One summer she decided to stay.
While in Anacortes, Kelly attended community college, and earned a degree in Social Services. Unfortunately, not long after graduating, she found herself as a single parent without a job, with a young son who has learning disabilities. To find a job that would make enough for her and her son, she decided to continue her education.
She did all the paperwork and started her new classes, commuting every day to Bellingham. “I’m not really a freeway driver,” Kelly said, laughing. “I’m a nervous driver. I took all the backroads up the Chuckanut. Eventually, I just said, ‘Get yourself on the freeway. You can do it!’ I wasn’t going to let my fear of the freeway stop me from going to class.”
Kelly earned her four-year degree. Even while studying, she often volunteered, mostly in social work, in order to get more experience. In the last year of her studies, she decided that she no longer wanted to commute and made the decision to move to Bellingham. Her son was just starting first grade.
In Bellingham, Kelly regularly encountered unsafe housing conditions and rent increases. She was forced to move frequently out of concerns for her son’s safety. “I was constantly looking for better housing,” she said.
They currently live in a small bedroom apartment. “It’s really tiny,” she said, “Just one bedroom. I don’t even have my own room, but I deal with the tininess,” However, she gradually started to find a lot of mold. “The washer is outside, and sometimes it backs up and comes into the bathtub.”
“I was aware of Habitat. I drove by Habitat every day when I went home. I didn’t think I had a chance. I decided one day that I would put all my effort into the application. I decided to put all my free time into completing what I needed to do, whether I make it or not. That was my mindset — there’s only one way to find out. And then I got the letter. I read that letter 500 times!”
Kelly Klein and her son will be among the first eight families to move into Phase 1 of the Telegraph Townhome Community in 2021. Kelly personifies the Habitat ethic of strength and determination. For years she’s overcome her fears to do what it takes to lift herself up, and to lift others up as well. We’re so pleased that she’s a Habitat Partner Homebuyer.
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