It’s not quite spring, but for the Care-A-Vanners, there’s no better time to build a house. Once again, this group of RV Winter Texans has made their annual trek to the Hill Country to lend a volunteer helping hand to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fredericksburg.
This year they are hard at work on Habitat House #16, located at 304 W. Park Street, located right next door to House #15 which they completed last year. Though most of the Care-A-Vanners are from much colder areas of the country, including Ontario Canada, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota, the recent chilly weather here has not deterred them from their mission- helping those in need with the construction of decent, affordable housing.
Dick Aide, the leader of the group, hails from Fox Lake, Wisconsin. He and his wife, Linda, have been coming to Fredericksburg to help Habitat for the past fifteen years. Along the way, they have recruited many other Care-A-Vanners to join them in their efforts, not just here, but with many other Habitat affiliates in need of their home construction talents.
The Care-A-Vanners are staying in Fredericksburg for the month of February, during which they will bring House #16 to the “dry-in” stage. They work alongside local Habitat volunteers, under the supervision of volunteer building manager, Wayne Murphy.
“The local volunteers and the Care-A-Vanners have formed strong friendships and enjoy working side by side to build homes in Fredericksburg,” says Aide. “We could not accomplish all that we do without working together.”
Since 2000, these Care-A-Vanners volunteers have helped build ten homes in Fredericksburg, putting in over 19,000 volunteer hours with 90 different people from all over the US and Canada, lending a hand and a hammer, to those in need.
Though the majority of labor is free, materials are not, and Habitat must raise money to cover the cost of the structure. Habitat’s first Fredericksburg home was built in 1995 with a price tag of $25,000. Since then, building costs have risen and it is projected that Habitat’s current build, House #16, will run around $85,000.
Funding for the house has been made possible with the help of donations from local individuals, businesses, churches, and service organizations, as well as area grants. All donations go toward building costs of the structure. Habitat for Humanity is privately funded and receives no government funding for the building of homes.
However, local land costs have become a bigger issue, as area real estate has rapidly priced itself out of range for the organization. Currently, lots in Fredericksburg cost almost as much as the construction of a Habitat home.
“We look to the community and its citizens to think about Habitat by donating or discounting land that, perhaps because of its location or size, would better fit our needs,” said Habitat Vice- President Kelly Musselman. “We were indeed fortunate that such was the case for Houses #15 and #16, but until additional affordable land is found, Habitat cannot continue its mission.”
Individuals who are interested in the work being done on House #16 are encouraged to stop by and view the construction at 304 W. Park and visit with the Care-A-Vanners there. This will be the fourth house in the W. Park Street area that Habitat has built. Other Habitat homes are located on Shaw, Fulton, Santa Rosa, and E. Schubert Streets.
Habitat considers itself to be the face of affordable housing in Fredericksburg. A typical Habitat home is 1100 square feet, 3 bedroom, 1 and 1/2 baths with central heat and air. There is no garage or carport, but a small storage shed is included.
Future homeowners must meet strict criteria to become eligible for a Habitat home and put in 300 hours of “sweat equity”- actual labor on their new residence, whether painting the walls or installing insulation. They must make a monthly house payment, which includes insurance and taxes. Full equity is not realized until the mortgage is paid off in twenty years. Families are vetted through an interview process, followed by a background check. Educational counseling is also offered to better prepare them to be a homeowner.
More information can also be found at fbghabitat.org or by calling 990- 8585. Donations may be sent to Habitat for Humanity, 102 E. San Antonio St. Box 5 Fredericksburg TX 78624.