The groundhog may have seen his shadow, but a prediction of four more weeks of winter doesn’t stop the Care-A-Vanners from making their annual trek to Fredericksburg. The Care-A-Vanners, a group of RV Winter Texans, are here again to lend a volunteer helping hand to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Fredericksburg.
This year they are hard at work on Habitat House #15, located at 306 W. Park Street. This home will be a new challenge for the builders, as it will be the first two story structure they have tackled for the organization. Though most of the Care-A-Vanners are from much colder areas of the country, including Ontario Canada, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington State, and Kansas, the recent chilly weather here has not deterred them from their mission- helping those in need with 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 fourteen 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.
“We’ve seen conditions that people live in that you would not believe,” says Aide. “If you can put a family like that into a good home, it is very rewarding. There are a lot of charities out there but helping people help themselves is the best thing you can do.”
The Care-A-Vanners are staying in Fredericksburg for the month of February, during which they will bring House #15 to the “dry-in” stage. They work alongside local Habitat volunteers, Wayne Murphy, Al Bispo, Don Ingels, Don Smith, and Pete Jensen, erecting walls, installing windows, doors, stairs, closets, plumbing, electricity, and most importantly, raising the roof. After the Care-A-Vanners leave for their next project, the local crew will then continue construction.
Since 2000, the Care-A-Vanners volunteers have helped build ten homes in Fredericksburg. Over the years, a very strong bond of fellowship has grown between the local Habitat volunteers and these Winter Texans. Last year, absent a house to work on, the group put their energies toward renovations at the local Boys & Girls Club. Including House #15 this year, the crew will have put in 19,000 volunteer hours working 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 #15, will run around $90,000.
Funding for the house is being made possible with the help of donations from local individuals, businesses, churches, and service organizations, as well as from a $25,000 matching challenge grant from an anonymous foundation donor. Habitat has managed thus far to raise about two-thirds of the funds needed to match the dollar-for-dollar grant in their “Raise the Roof” campaign.
As part of the “Raise the Roof” campaign, donors may sponsor a part of House #15, whether a window or door, sink or tub, cabinets or flooring. Donations can range from $25 for a gallon of paint, $350 for a water heater, to $1000 for insulation. 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.
“Every donation makes a difference and with the challenge grant, donations go twice as far,” said Habitat Vice-President Kelly Musselman. Donations may be made toward the challenge grant until June 30, 2014.
Individuals who are interested in the work being done on House #15 are encouraged to stop by and view the construction at 306 W. Park and visit with the Care-A-Vanners there. This will be the third 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.
“Habitat is not a hand out, but rather a hand up,” stated Musselman. “We are not giving away ‘free houses.’ Habitat homeowners pay a mortgage, like anyone else.”
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.
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. Whirlpool Corporation donates a refrigerator and stove for each home built. The Vereins Quilt Guild of Fredericksburg also donates a handmade quilt to each new homeowner.
Come the end of the month, the Care-A-Vanners will be hooking up their RVs and hitting the road on the way to their next Habitat build. They will leave behind the start of a new home for a deserving family in Fredericksburg. Just what impact do these visiting volunteers have on local community citizens?
Owner of House #8 put these words to what Habitat did for her family several years ago.
“The people that help build the Habitat houses are generous people. They are willing to give up their time to help build a home for people they don’t even know. They help people that need a better place to live. We really appreciate what Habitat did for our family.”
It not only takes a lot of hands to build a Habitat home, but also a lot of heart.
More information can also be found at Habitat’s website at www.fbghabitat.org as well as on their new Facebook page, facebook.com/FredericksburgHabitat or by calling 990- 8585. Donations to the “Raise the Roof” fund drive may be sent to Habitat for Humanity, 102 E. San Antonio St. Box 5 Fredericksburg TX 78624. Habitat also welcomes additional local volunteers to help with construction on House #15, now and throughout the year
Left to Right: Tommy Newman, Don Smith, Pete Jensen, Ben Vanderlugt, Betty Huygen, Linda Aide, Jeanette Vanderlugt, Marilyn Adams, John Huygen, Idamae Downs, Dwight Adams, Karen Alderden, Wayne Murphy, Craig Sundermeyer, June Phillips, Sandy Sundermeyer, Russ Ritter, Shirley Harvey, Kelly Musselman, Richard Harvey, Bob Alderden, Dick Aide
Absent when picture was taken, CE & Timmie Cherry, Bill Downs, Maria Ritter, Don Ingles, Russell Vowell, Tommy Hynes, Larry & Cynthia Berkman, Al Bispo, Brent Geistweidt