Located 25 miles southeast of Bellingham, Washington, the rural town of Acme is nestled in the South Fork Valley between the North Cascades and Lake Whatcom. In the winter of 1975, Linda Clow and her family moved to Acme and into what were two former bunkhouses joined together to make one dwelling. The bunkhouse-based house, built in the 1920s as part of the expanding timber industry in the South Fork Valley, is where Linda has lived for 43 years.
She had always dreamed of traveling to Europe, especially to Greece. “I wanted to travel. I had the money saved in the bank. But my husband worried it would be too hard for us to find a house if we went traveling after the end of our commercial fishing season. One summer we’d had a really bad season, and my husband had to sell his boat. We had to make a choice, so we bought this house instead of traveling.”Like many pioneers, Linda’s entire life has embodied strength and self-reliance. After years of working hard in the fishing industry, she became a school bus driver, ferrying children to and from schools in Kendall, Harmony, and Acme for 27 years.
The years haven’t been kind to Linda’s cobbled-together house or to her health. The damp North Cascades mountain climate has, over the years, reduced the structural integrity of Linda’s 1920s house to near collapse. Deep moss covers the disintegrating roof. Decay and deterioration have made routine maintenance impossible. Living so many years in an increasingly unlivable house has compromised her health.“My old house should have come down a long time ago. I was talking about buying a modular home. Then, while talking with my pastor, she said, ‘Why don’t you try Habitat?’
“I started out going to a class at Lowe’s, to learn how to use some basic construction tools. Then I went to Habitat’s Lowe’s Women Build day out on Telegraph Road. I couldn’t do much because I had just had back surgery. But I made food for everyone and did what I could. Then I started working in the Habitat Store. I had to have 500 hours of sweat equity. I believe I have 1,500 hours now. The Store staff is really friendly and genuine.”
Construction began on her new home in 2018. Throughout construction, the old front porch has been the scene of countless lunches with her volunteer work crews, neighbors, and well-wishers. “When Habitat started building my home, it was getting cold. So I made a pot of soup and told the guys that they didn’t have to hang out outside. There was no building out there then. I knew it was going to get colder, so I invited them up here to the porch. That’s been the really fun part for me.” Linda’s new, warm home will be finished in February 2019. Complete with passive insulation, triple-pane windows, an air-to-air heat exchange system, and solar panels, her new home embodies Habitat’s mission to build “net-zero-ready” homes. “I love the people who’ve worked on my home. They’re like another family.”