Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A good Habitat to have: Building one dream at a time

Great-West Life staff raising the roof

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While some are using the weekend to unwind, about 200 volunteers are giving their weekend up to help build a home for Habitat for Humanity.

The volunteers are hoping to finish building the house on Langside Street by the end of August, said Pete Klippenstein, construction supervisor on the project. Roughly 20 volunteers are on the project for eight hours every day, he said.

"You have to be organized; you have be able to think ahead to run so many people all the time," Klippenstein said.

Most of the volunteers are employees of Great-West Life and are dedicating their time building a house that will be sold to a family in need, said Ken McIntyre, vice-president of marketing and communications for the Manitoba branch of Habitat for Humanity.

'A lot of people think we just build homes and give them to poor people, which is totally wrong'

-- Habitat for Humanity vice-president Ken McIntyre

"A lot of people think we just build homes and give them to poor people, which is totally wrong," he said.

Instead, the houses are sold at market value to those chosen to move in, but require no down payment and no interest on the payments.

The future homeowners are also required to put in several hundred hours in Habitat projects, often on the very home they'll live in.

Habitat has built roughly 250 homes since the first one was built in 1988. Seventeen of them are in Winnipeg, and another six are just outside the city, McIntyre said.

The people who are chosen to move in pass a screening process. They're usually families, McIntyre said, and often are trying to move up from unsafe neighbourhoods but can't afford better houses.

"They're people just like you and I. Some of them are bus drivers. We have dental assistants," he said.

Klippenstein has been building homes with Habitat for the last seven years. He estimates this is number 30. He said building a house in two weeks is hard work, both for him and the volunteers. But he said it's worth it to see the homeowners' faces when they receive their keys.

"They're overwhelmed that this happened to them, and just knowing you're a part of it... is a good thing," he said.

Louann den Otter, a volunteer on the site, said talking to the homeowners makes the build more rewarding.

"(Habitat) ask you to go and introduce yourself. It's not just faceless," den Otter said.

Den Otter has been volunteering with Habitat for a few years, but this is only the second home she's worked on. She said for her, Habitat homes are a staple of Canada.

"We've lived in different parts of the country. This is one of the levelling things about being a Canadian. You see it almost in every big city," she said.

The volunteers are expected to finish by Aug. 30, at which point plumbing and electrical work will be done by professionals. If all goes according to plan, the homeowners will be allowed to move in by December, making the home an early Christmas present.

oliver.sachgau@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2013 A3

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