CEDAR RAPIDS — In the span of just five days, Katie Tenney is building what she calls her “forever home.”
Tenney, 35, has waited more than a year for this week. She says she’s not much of a painter, but she plans to accent the walls of her new home with fabrics and curtains.
Her two daughters, ages 4 and 6, likely will get a glitter wall.
“I’m just excited to be able to call somewhere my own,” she said. “Instead of paying rent, you’re paying something to build equity into, something that you can retire on ...
“I’m never moving again.”
Hundreds of volunteers started work Monday on the 900 block of 12th Street NE to build three houses with the Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, the local affiliate of an international not-for-profit dedicated to providing housing to low-income families.
The efforts are part of a nationwide Home Builders Blitz, a project that dates back to 2002 in North Carolina.
In this year’s blitz, more than 250 homes will be constructed or renovated across the country, Cedar Valley communications manager Jonny Lipford said.
This is the fourth time the Cedar Valley organization has participated in the event, with the last event in 2016. Lipford said more than 100 companies have donated resources to build the three houses, to be completed by Friday.
When the workers started, all that stood on the lots was foundation. Near the end of the first workday, the beginnings of walls and roofs were largely complete.
Compared to the usual construction timeline of Habitat homes, Lipford said the blitz is “fast and furious,” and it requires more planning to pull off.
“In the matter of a week, from the ground up, everything is done,” he said. “Normally that would take four to six months.”
Local tradesmen and professional builders are working alongside volunteers and families to get the job done. The help of skilled hands is what propels the construction forward in a shorter time frame, Lipford said.
Among those providing a helping hand has been Larry Lacey, 70, who has volunteered with the organization for 10 years. He said he likes seeing the progress of a house’s construction, from start to finish, and working with the homeowners who benefit from the efforts. Over the years, he has witnessed several homeowners receive their keys at the end of the process.
“That’s pretty rewarding,” he said. “Most of the homeowners are very appreciative and very vocal about their thank yous and such.”
Tenney took a seat under a white tent, a makeshift headquarters for volunteer coordination, watching on from a distance as the unfinished roof of her soon-to-be home rose toward the sun. In just a few more days, key in hand, Tinney will step inside the door of her own house. For now, she’s absorbing every detail of the experience and enjoying the opportunity to make her first decisions as a homeowner.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” she said. “There’s no other time in my life that I’m going to be able to see my own house being built, let alone participate in building my own house.
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“You take care of stuff better when you build it and when you’ve been a part of it.”
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Updated, June 7, 11:30 a.m.: An earlier version of this story mis-identified the location of the project.