2013 Home Builders Blitz: Nine Builders, Nine Homes, One Week
On May 31, 2013 Habitat for Humanity of Omaha will begin the sixth annual Home Builders Blitz. This year the build will transform the area near 18th and Corby Streets the week of May 31 - June 9. Nine builders have made the commitment to construct nine homes in just one week. We'd like to thank these builders for their commitment and dedication that will make this project a success. Together, they will help transform a community.
If you would like to volunteer to help with site support during this event, email Habitat Omaha's Volunteer Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rock the Block: Deer Park Neighborhood
DIY fever hit Deer Park as plans to spruce up nine homes blossomed and grew with neighbors working on their own properties while Habitat for Humanity of Omaha crews and volunteers started trimming trees, raking leaves, cleaning up debris, planting flowers and painting during the second Rock the Block event on April 20, 2013.
|Neighbors and volunteers worked together to transform this home during Rock the Block.|
As many as eight more families came out and started working on their own properties estimated Katie Duran, adding that at one point there were probably 100 people involved in the effort. Her husband, Oscar Duran, Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinator for Habitat Omaha, organized the event. The mission was more than beautification; it was designed to help neighbors connect and get to know each other better.
Gabriel Ramirez has lived in the neighborhood for almost 16 years and couldn't get over the changes he could see looking up and down the street, saying the thing that impressed him most was "everyone working together without asking for any money."
When Juana Velasco got home from work, she immediately changed clothes and pitched in, marveling at the changes that took place while she was away. "I wasn't able to do as much as everyone else, but I really enjoyed mingling with the neighbors and even got to meet the new families," indicating two Habitat Omaha homes that are nearly complete and will be dedicated soon.
At her house, crews took down a tree and removed a stump from another that had been cut down years ago. They also cleared debris, added dirt to the drive, planted flowers and even painted. The dramatic transformation thrilled her mother, Maria Velasco, who has wanted a place in the back yard for her children to play for over nine years. Juana added, "My brother and I are grown up now, but my nephew, Elijah, will be able to play back there."
Elijah Garcia, 6, (pictured here) helped too, declaring he liked shoveling best, but he also picked up trash and took it to the dumpster. During the day, two dumpsters were filled to overflowing.
Maria made a pasta salad to share with the workers and was happy she was able to offer them something in return for their efforts. Juana nodded, "We thank God for Habitat and for putting it into so many peoples' hearts to help the community."
Building a Strong Foundation: Homebuyer Education and Financial Fitness Classes
For most people, a home is the single most expensive purchase they'll ever make. To help ensure homebuyer's success, Habitat for Humanity Omaha depends in part on a couple of workshops given at Family Advisory Services, Inc. - Homebuyer Education and Financial Fitness.
Originally just one program started in the late 90's, Homebuyer Education helps participants take an objective look at their finances as well as all those pieces that have to fit together before they can finalize the purchase of their home. Topics range from types of insurance to saving for emergencies and even touch on building community. They also stress the importance of devising and sticking to a budget and paying bills first and on time.
After several years, they recognized the need to address credit separately and set up a Financial Fitness workshop, emphasizing the need for good credit and a healthy relationship with a financial organization.
©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker
One area covered in this workshop is the psychology of money, starting with a look at spending habits and triggers and then getting parents to think about the behaviors they are modeling for their children. In our society life rushes at us so fast and they teach the need to slow down and think things through.
Participants also learn to protect their credit and if they want to, can find out their credit scores and work individually with a counselor to create an action plan. "It's never too late to fix your credit," emphasizes Donna McFadden, the Program Director.
Family Advisory Services is both a United Way and a HUD agency and their instructors are all certified. They work with a number of clients in addition to Habitat Omaha homebuyers.
Solar Savings for Partner Families
Nebraskans for Solar will partner with Habitat for Humanity Omaha to provide solar power and/or water heaters for to up to six new homeowners this building season. Both new construction and renovations will be chosen. They must have southern exposures with no trees or buildings to obstruct the panels once in place.
According to Dan Brewer, Director of Construction and Land for Habitat Omaha, "the exact number of homes selected will depend on the success of their fundraising and suitability of sites."
Nebraskans for Solar also educates the general public and school aged children about the benefits of solar energy. Typically, lower income families must spend a greater portion of their budget on energy, but renewable energy leads to lower costs for homeowners, giving them greater flexibility in their budgets and allowing them to put more into investments like education that can help break the cycle of poverty for some families.
The solar energy installations will be both solar electric and solar hot water and all the equipment will be made in America. At peak times, the electric output will be 2-3 kilowatts and the solar hot water installations will be compatible with the home's water tank.
Green power also benefits the environment by reducing pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, making it a cleaner and healthier option.
Right now, that may be the most exciting aspect of this venture, summed up by Dan Brewer, as the opportunity "to grow our capabilities in building energy efficient homes that provide our homeowners with an excellent quality of life that is sustainable and environmentally sensible."
Notes from Romania: A Global Village Journal by Team Leader Don Browers
Day 1: Today, the Omaha team started to work on our part of the construction of what will be--in a few months--four homes for deserving Romanian families. After a long flight from Omaha to Budapest, Hungary (with a four hour layover in Amsterdam), an overnight in Budapest and a seven hour bus ride to Cluj-Nappoca, the team was anxious to get to work. Not only did we get a wonderfully warm reception from our hosts at Habitat for Humanity of Cluj, the rain clouds disappeared and we were greeted by sunshine, blue skies and temperatures in the upper 60s. After the lingering winter in Omaha, the springlike weather in Romania was huge morale boost for everyone.
|The Habitat Omaha Global Village team hard at work on site in Cluj, Romania. View more photos of the team at work.
Spring has been slow in coming to Romania, also. As a consequence the footings that Habiat Cluj had hoped would be already poured with concrete were instead filled with foot and half of water. Today, local construction leaders have had pumps working day and night to evacuate the rainwater. The Omaha team busied themselves in bending and tying together rebar which will reinforce the concrete footings. Even though maybe only Nick Squires on our team had worked with rebar, everyone quickly picked up the skills needed and knocked out a lot of work today.
Even though to a person everyone worked hard, starting with a 6:30 a.m. wake call and the work was manual labor, the jokes, the gentle kidding and the laughing never stopped all day long. Everyone was taken a little bit by surprise when 4:30 and the work day came so quickly. The day just flew by. The Romanian construction leader, Vio, is a bit of character and practical joker with a hearty laugh. Negil McPherson, on team, says if Vio lived in the U.S. he could have his own reality show. Vio speaks only a smatteriing of English and we don't speak more than a few words of Romanian we have learned since we arrived, a lot can be communicated with gestures, facial expressions and smiles. The rest of the translation is handled by our the Cluj Volunteer Coordinator, Irina Marincas, a delightful young woman that everyone on the team adores; Daniel Natase, a Romanian college student and Habitat volunteer; Mihaela Kobjerowski, a member of our team from Omaha who grew up in Romanian before she moved to the U.S.; and Mihaela's old college roommate, Laura Negret who traveled five hours from her home in Romania to join us in Cluj.
Tomorrow we have some more steel to ready for the footings and then Vio says we start pouring concrete in the afternoon. The forecast looks good again for tomorrow. And we ready for more of our Romanian adventure. Stay tuned!
Day 2: The Omaha Global Village team in Cluj, Romania got real workout today. There is no other way to characterize today except to describe it as hard manual labor, but critical to building solid houses. Today was the day scheduled for setting the rebar "cages" that we made yesterday and pouring about two-and-a-half feet of concrete in trenches for the footings. This footing work will provide the solid base for the four houses that will rise on the idyllic country lot a few kilometers outside of the city.
The rebar "cages" are built in sections about ten feet by two feet by one foot. This morning our chief builder, Vio, had us suspend the sections on boards spanning the footing trenches and tie sections together with strong pieces of wire. We had no sooner started than Vio got a phone call telling him the truckloads of concrete he was expecting in the afternoon were now going to arrive at 10 a.m.! After a lot of shouting in Romanian and hustle by everyone on the Omaha team and the Habitat homeowners who are working alongside us, we got the rebar into the trenches just ahead of the concrete trucks. Then the really intense work began.
To get the concrete from the road where the trucks had to park, the construction team rented a concrete pump which pushed the concrete through a six inch hose. The hard part was moving the hose around the perimeter of footings. It was a bit like wrestling an anaconda that weighed hundreds of pounds. It took nearly all hands to wrestle the hose--pulsing with concrete--from one position to another.
We got the job done. Vio was very pleased with the teamwork, skill and effort from the Omaha group and the six soon-to-be-owners of Habitat homes. Tomorrow, we'll complete pouring the rest of the concrete for the footings, but tonight it's hot showers,some Alleve for sore muscles, and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Day 3: A Habitat Global Village trip offers insights into other countries and experiences with new cultures that you just can't get with any other trip you might book with a travel agent. Today, the Omaha team got to enjoy one of those experiences. A group of women who live in Cluj, but are from other countries joined us on the work site. Most of the these women, members of the Cluj (Romania) International Women's Club were from France but the Club counts among it's members women from 13 different countries. Although the women didn't speak much English and they were a bit shy (unlike us, robustly extroverted Americans) but a lot can be communicated with a few smiles and gestures. Marie, one of the Club members, baked a yogurt cake which she shared with us. Mmmmm...delicious cake and another delicious day.