Don Stover of Las Cruces, N.M., left, and Tom Hogan of Homer frame a wall during construction of a Habitat for Humanity home in Homer last week.
Photo by Hal Spence
A hot July sun beats down relentlessly as Don Stover and Tom Hogan hammer together another section of wall. There's still a long way to go, however, before this structure can be called a home.
But sometime this fall that's just what it will become for a Homer single mother with two small children, including one requiring a wheelchair.
Stover, along with his wife, Elaine, drove from Las Cruces, N.M., to supervise the project, the second house to be built in Homer by the relatively new local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity.
Hogan is a local commercial fisherman who has devoted much of his spare time to constructing the Habitat houses.
Dan Boone, president of the board of Habitat for Humanity South Kenai Peninsula, said the local organization began efforts to become an affiliate in 2000 and earned certification in August 2002.
With a pair of lots off East End Road donated by the city of Homer, the local affiliate began work on its first house, turning it over to the resident family in August 2003.
The current project being erected under Stover's leadership is next door. It will be bigger than the first home, in part because it will require special accommodations to make it handicap accessible.
The two homes sit on a quiet street in a neighborhood full of tall trees and the sounds of children playing.
Habitat homes are not free to their occupiers, though they do come at a significantly reduced cost. Applicants must be living in substandard housing, and they must have an annual income of at least $13,000 and no more than $26,000 per year. Further, applicants must be willing to partner with Habitat for Humanity and supply sweat equity, either on their own home or on another Habitat project.
Habitat sells the homes through no-interest loans, providing a substantial savings to their owners.
"That's a huge deal," Boone said.
Homes generally cost around $50,000 to build, he said, but their actual value can run much higher. They are, like any other home, subject to housing market influences.
Monthly payments from Habitat mortgages are used to build still more houses, according to the Habitat for Humanity Web site.
Stover, 62, who retired several years ago, has a wealth of experience in construction. He joined a Habitat group in Las Cruces through his church, starting off, he said, just pounding nails.
Though he'd managed construction projects most of his career, he was perfectly content just to be a laborer. His talents didn't go unnoticed, however, and soon the affiliate made him a boss and he was once again supervising crews.
"There is a major need for guys to do what I do, which is to stand up and lead," he said.
A while back, he and his wife sold their home, trading in their real estate for "wheel estate" and joined the Caravaners, which he described as a loose club of full-time RVers, many of whom do just as they do, head for locations where they can be of help on a Habitat project.
"There are different styles and techniques around the country," he said. "Down there you don't have to worry about things like volcanoes, or the cold."
This is the Stovers' second trip to Alaska and to Homer. The first was strictly for sightseeing, and this time they came to build. Earlier this year they sent letters to the Alaska affiliates explaining their intentions and wondering if there were any projects on which they might work. Boone, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee, got that letter and immediately got on the phone.
"He asked, 'What's it going to take to get you up here?'" Stover remembered.
Expecting a finished foundation when he arrived, Stover was a bit surprised to find Alaska's spring weather had done what it invariably does to even the best of schedules.
Soon he and Boone were building the foundation and by mid-July the exterior walls were framed and Stover, Hogan and Boone were working on interior framing.
"We are a month to six weeks behind," Stover said.
Boone said he has gotten a lot of help and supplies from local contractors and businesses, but acknowledged it has been hard to recruit volunteer labor in the summer in Homer. Boone said he has considered framing future Habitat homes in the summer and leaving the bulk of the finish work for the winter months when more people have time to volunteer. Right now, however, the current project is a bit short of hands.
"What we can really use is more amateur help," he said. "That's really what habitat is all about."
Anyone wishing to volunteer should call him at (907) 235-3779.
A request seeking an interview with the family that will occupy the new home relayed through Boone was not answered.
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