For the first time, Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North (VIN) finished eight homes in a single year, one year ahead of this goal in the organization’s strategic plan.
On Thursday, they handed over keys to four more families in the Comox Valley, during a ceremony at the Lake Trail Road site in Courtenay.
“Today, we celebrate these homes and these four special families,” Habitat for Humanity VIN’s executive director Pat McKenna said during the event.
Bonnie Harris and her daughters are one of the families moving into the new homes. She has eight-year-old twins Hailey and Hannah and then became pregnant during the build, so she wanted to make sure to do her “sweat equity” hours early in the project.
“I did all the build hours as soon as I could,” she said. “It’s really hard to do your ‘sweat equity’ when you’re pregnant.”
She has since had daughter Raina, now eight months old.
Harris worked in the kitchen providing food for people working on site during the build. She appreciated seeing not only her house come together but the surrounding homes in the Habitat for Humanity project. Through the process, she has met others who live there.
“It’s nice to watch it turn into a little community,” she said. “I’ve now gotten to know all of the neighbours.”
Like Harris, Sarah Corrigall has three daughters, and she has looked forward to moving into the new home, adding the project to her and her family means “safe and affordable housing.”
The process of applying, getting approval and building has taken a few years. As well, she has spent a few hundred hours on the build site, and has also gotten to know the people on the project well.
“The wait has been long but well worth it,” she said. “The process has been amazing. I was at the site when it was just an overgrown lot, and now it has eight homes on it. All the volunteers spending countless hours towards building a home for me and my family has been very heartwarming to watch.”
The two families will be joined by the families of Samantha Syvret and Candice (she asked her last name not be used) in the row of new homes.
During the presentation, McKenna read off a lengthy list of partners and supporters, including local and provincial government officials, businesses, donors and other volunteers, who provided a range of goods and services to the project.
He highlighted a couple of significant factors in bringing this phase of the project to fruition ahead of schedule. For example, one of the factors on the build was the additional help provided by about 150 members of 19 Wing Comox.
“We’re ahead of schedule by three months because the base came into help,” McKenna said.
The members worked at the site regularly this past year, providing more than 5,000 hours, and they were responsible for two of the homes.
“They are all proud to have contributed to this community,” said Lt.-Col. Andrea Dawe, representing 19 Wing Comox. “Service is at our core. This is what we do.”
Fundraising also played a key role through sales at the ReStores in the region and from donations. Early on, Tim Hortons presented a cheque for more than $7,665. As well, the representatives from Christoph Real Estate Group, Robbins and Company, CPAs and Fresh Coast Investments Inc. presented a cheque for their matching donor program, which runs to the end of the year and which will have them donate up to $7,500 to match donations raised.
McKenna pointed out some other important contributions of late, including $210,000 from an anonymous donor. He also mentioned generous donations left to Habitat for Humanity from the estates of a couple of people who passed away, Don MacPherson and Jim Wilks. The money will help the organization find land and build more homes for local families.
After McKenna spoke, Logan Ronhovde, the project manager, offered a blessing over the homes and remembered the work of Jim Latiff, who worked on the site but passed away before the homes were completed. Following the opening remarks, it was time for the ceremonies to open the homes, with each family receiving bread, salt, a book of wisdom, a set of keys and a toolkit. After this, the families cut cakes to celebrate while visitors toured the homes.