Breaking ground on a dream
North Willamette Valley Habitat for Humanity had an east Woodburn ground breaking ceremony scheduled well in advance of the October 10 event.
The Ortega family of Hubbard did not find out they would be part of that ceremony until the day before.
Carlos Ortega, his wife Ernestina and their three children, Quieira, 12, Carlos Jr., 8, and Eaden 7, were called to the event and handed shovels as they learned they would be living at the Aztec Drive location once the home is built.
Dozens of people attended the ceremony, including Habitat volunteers, future neighbors of the Ortegas, Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson and Deputy Police Chief Marty Pilcher.
"This is just super exciting – I'm at a loss for words," Carlos Ortega said.
Carlos and Ernestina are both graduates of Woodburn High School. The family will provide "sweat equity" in the amount of 500 hours of work toward the new home, which will take about 8 or 9 months to build.
NWVHH Executive Director Kari Johnsen said that this will be the 48th home this regional non-profit has built and the eighth in Woodburn. It has been in the area 33 years.
"A lot of people think that we give away homes. We don't," Johnsen explained. "Habitat makes sure that they get an affordable payment on the home."
The sweat equity is also part of the deal, and it's something Carlos Ortega anticipates with enthusiasm and a touch of relief.
"We had been hoping and praying – just hoping for the best," Ortega said. "Then when we found out, and it was like a dream come true.
"I'm really looking forward to working on (the build) and learning a bunch of things. Hopefully, I will learn enough that if anything goes wrong with the house, I will be able to fix it myself."
Swenson said he had been in attendance of a League of Oregon Cities meeting within the past week, talking with a number of other mayors from around the state. Affordable housing is a common topic among all of them.
Johnsen also emphasized that, noting that it would take the building of more than 1,000 new homes to begin to address rampant homeless issues in the state. She said as housing costs rise, renters become terrified, often put into a position of making difficult decisions about shopping for food or other necessities in order to afford a roof over their heads.
"We're trying to help families feel safe, secure and stable," she said. "We want kids to be able to concentrate on school and for families to not have to worry about where they are going to live."
The Aztec Drive home was achieved by proceeds from Habitat's store; it's dubbed as the "House that ReStore Built." NWVHH has a ReStore thrift shops in Woodburn and Canby.
Johnsen lauded all the volunteers, including those at the store, for their efforts. The Ortega family echoed that.
"We just want to thank everybody for helping us get this dream," Ortega said.
North Willamette Valley Habitat for Humanity is based in Mount Angel and serves Silverton, Woodburn, Molalla, Canby, Gervais, Hubbard, Oregon City, Aurora and the surrounding areas.
Stores: NWVHH operates two "ReStore" thrift stores: 245 Young St, Woodburn, 503-902-0645; 411 S Redwood St, Canby, 503-263-6691.
Event: The non-profit is holding a key fundraiser at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Mt. Angel Festhalle, 500 Wilco Highway NE.
Cost is $50 per person and $400 for a table of 8, and includes silent and live auction, program and buffet-style dinner from Zest Catering. For information, visit nwvhabitat.org.
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