Recently in July, 103 volunteers swarmed over two Habitat for Humanity building sites in the Carney Lake area on the Key Peninsula. Some spent all day each day, some gave however many hours they could manage. All were enthusiastic hauling lumber, installing insulation, nailing framework, and moving toward completion of the homes for two families in need.
The project began weeks ago with preparation of land sites. Ron Coen, longtime Habitat advocate, president of the Peninsula Lutheran Church, and avid building organizer, said completion of the two structures’ roofs and sidings was expected by the first weekend in August. Occupancy is anticipated in October.

In the foreground with a crew of volunteers lifting the first of the walls of the new home into place are KC Carter and his wife, Jennifer Speidel. Photo by Hugh McMillan

Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to providing decent, safe and affordable housing for hardworking families who otherwise might not be able to afford a home on their own. Habitat’s strength lies in volunteers who donate time, skill, money and energy to make everything happen. Among this project’s volunteers are members of the Peninsula Lutheran Church, the Friday Morning Rotarians, Agnus Dei Lutheran and Fox Island Alliance churches, whose volunteers ranged from 16 years old to retired folks. Skills ranged from doctors and nurses to builders, retired detectives, salespeople, pastors, financial representatives and just about everything in between.

Soon-to-be owners of the homes, Mellissa Carman and her three children, and KC Carter and wife, Jennifer Speidel, were accepted for the program after an application, referral, and examination process. The families will put at least 500 hours of “sweat equity” into working on their homes and on those of other Habitat families and will carry a preferred rate mortgage they must pay off as does any homebuyer.

Mellissa Carman and her 15-year-old daughter, Hannah, work on their soon-to-be new home near Carney Lake on the Key Peninsula. Photo by Hugh McMillan

Coen, with the volunteer group working on the Carman home, said, “Working alongside Mellissa Carman is a special treat. While the Lutheran community has already put in over 300 volunteer hours in just two days, working with her has encouraged us to pledge several hundred more hours.  We are looking forward to working with others in the community to help make this American dream come true for this wonderful family.”

Carman with her husband and children, Nick, 19, Ryan, 17 and Hannah, 15, lived for 15 years in Edgewood, on half an acre. “Our lives consisted of me, the typical stay at home mom, PTA, running kids to school and sports events. My husband and I both coached baseball; he also coached basketball,” she said. “We golfed and my husband was vice president of the Golf Association at Brookdale golf course for a time… He is a journeyman sheet metal worker who worked very hard to get through the apprenticeship program working days, and school at night. He made a very good living and I was blessed to stay home with the children…”

About six years ago her husband struggled with addiction. The family began to deteriorate. The stress, shame, confusion and devastation that comes with addiction took its toll.

“We helped him get into rehab a few times. A few times he went himself. He was a good man with a good heart struggling with this addiction,” she said.

In February 2006, the family lost everything in a house fire, driving the couple further apart. They divorced, and Carman took a job as a custodian. Her best friend, who helped the family recover after the fire, died suddenly a year later. Carman became more depressed. Another friend talked her into applying for a Habitat home.

“We now have the privilege of getting to know the wonderful people of Habitat and all the volunteers at the Peninsula Lutheran church and the volunteers from neighboring Lutheran churches who support building our home. Our healing has begun. We are establishing new relationships and have a fresh vision for our future,” she said. “Having hope for the future and knowing we will have a place to call home is a huge gift from God.”

This project is sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a fraternal organization, which has put $125 million into expanding the capacity of Habitat over a four-year period. The Thrivent grant provided 65 percent of the costs, the Habitat chapter provided 25 percent, and local Lutheran churches provided 10 percent. Coen, a Wauna resident, said volunteers from Lutheran congregations will provide at least half of the volunteer hours needed to complete the home.
The Carter-Speidel family was accepted into Habitat in 2007. “We couldn’t wait to build our home and meet all the different volunteers and participate in building other Habitat families’ houses,” KC Carter said.

Carter, 25, works as a car lot manager in Purdy. Speidel, 22, is a stay at home mom. They have three children. Donavon, 5, is a student at Minter Creek Elementary. Makenzi, 3, will start preschool in the fall. “She can’t wait!” said Speidel. Mercedez, the newest member of the family, is 2 months old.

The family currently shares a three bedroom house with 10 people. The house has a black mold problem and only one bathroom. “We are so excited to be able to finally be able to have our own home!” they said.

Coen noted that Peninsula Lutheran is blessed to have licensed professionals who perform services Habitat would otherwise need to hire out. These “in kind” services greatly reduce the cost of the home and lower the owners’ payments. Mark Jones, owner of Firmly Grounded Electrical, Ted Buethe of Heartstring Construction Inc., John Virostek, professional phone installer, Steve Hodge, countertop installer, and Ken Mitchell, cabinet maker with Westmark Products, are among those professionals who helped make the home a reality.

“These are examples of how ‘bringing work home with you’ can be used to great advantage in the community,” said Coen. “If you want to give special meaning to your life, while at the same time, doing something significant for others, why not think about working on a Habitat build,” asks Coen.

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