Habitat gears up for new build
LUVERNE -- Ground was broken Saturday on the latest project of Southwestern Minnesota Habitat for Humanity.
The 1,008-square-foot single family dwelling will be located on East Bishop Avenue, on a piece of land donated by the estate of the late Marie Weigle, who at one time lived on the property. When the new home is constructed, it will be home to Sheryl Staeffler and her children, Zack, Katie and Emilie.
"This building site is important to many people," said Habitat board member Sherri Smith, who will serve as the family support person for the Staefflers. "It was important to Marie Weigle, who made her home at this location and then, knowing the importance of having a home, donated this parcel of land to Habitat for Humanity. This site is important to Sheryl, to Zack, to Katie and Emilie as they build a home to shelter them and share many memories."
Saturday's program began with an overview of Southwestern Minnesota Habitat for Humanity and the role it plays in bringing affordable housing to the region.
"We are a Christian-based organization that lends a hand up, not a hand-out," emphasized Pam Dobson, executive director of the regional chapter. "It started in 2001 in southwest Minnesota -- Nobles, Rock and Pipestone counties.
"The first build was here in Luverne, then rotating to the different communities. Here is Luverne, this is our third building, and we've built eight homes so far."
Dobson also noted that Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has been a key partner for the organization, allowing Southwest Habitat to build progressively in the region, although it had taken some time for this latest project to come together.
Among those participating in Saturday's groundbreaking ceremony was Mike Jarchow, executor of the Weigle estate.
"Mike just told me that she was a very patient woman, and we thank the Lord for that, because she had to be patient with us on this build," said Dobson.
Also on hand were many of the Southwestern Minnesota Habitat for Humanity board members, who further explained the Habitat process. Prospective partner families are assessed based on their need; willingness to pay; and willingness to partner with Habitat for Humanity. Homeowners must have a reliable income in order to make the payments and associated expenses on the house and be willing to contribute 300 hours of sweat equity to the project.
For the Staefflers, the chance to own a home was an opportunity they couldn't pass up, even though Sheryl was reluctant to be put in the spotlight of the project. They had been living in a rental house.
"Friends and family really talked me into it," said Sheryl. "I wasn't going to put in an application, but when we discussed it, they said, 'Why wouldn't you?' So it's because of them."
The entire family will be involved in the building process.
"The hard labor will be the easy part," said Sheryl following the ceremony. "It's the publicity part that I don't do so well."
The Staefflers have been involved in planning the home and hope to be living there by winter, although exactly when the project will begin is still up in the air. The current holdup is the lack of a contractor to oversee the build, and a plea for a qualified person to come forward was issued on Saturday.
In addition to the Luverne build, Southwestern Habitat for Humanity also celebrated a second project taking place in Pipestone County. The Michael and Clorinde Johnson family will move into an already existing home that was donated to Habitat by its previous owners. Because the home already existed, the Johnsons will contribute 200 hours of sweat equity to its renovation.
Following the Saturday morning ceremony, the participants attended a pancake breakfast fundraiser for Habitat at St. Catherine's Catholic Church in Luverne. Another major upcoming fundraiser is the third annual Barbecue Cookoff during the Bash in the Grass event July 14 at Luverne City Park.
For more information about Southwestern Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, go to www.swmnh4h.org; or phone (507) 215-2091.
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327