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My Turn: Please help us build for Taos
By now most of you have driven past the structure that will be the new Taos Habitat for Humanity office on Salazar Road. Yes, that’ll be our new office, not a Habitat home, as many folks have assumed. But you probably haven’t driven by our current Habitat Home build site, which is a little off the beaten path, in the Chamisa Verde subdivision behind the Taos Youth and Family Center. We’re excited about our new office space, but our home location is sacred ground.
It doesn't look like much right now — all you’ll see is a concrete slab. It’s covered with what looks like blankets to keep it shielded from winter weather. What you won’t see are the 13 volunteers from Villanova University in Pennsylvania who, along with four local volunteers, poured that concrete foundation last week, after helping the plumber lay the radiant heat coils.
You also won’t see the group of 25 high school students from Global Experience Magnet School in Connecticut, or the group of 12 from Church of Our Saviour in Mill Valley, Calif., who each spent a week this August digging trenches and laying rebar for the footer of the house, and making adobe bricks by hand.
Over 100 people have volunteered their time to build this house, and probably 200 to 300 more will continue that work next year, until the home is ready for a Taos family.
A Taos family who (like 90% of the families in our county) could otherwise never afford a home of their own will soon have one. They’ll still pay a monthly mortgage for 30 years (but without interest or profit), they’ll still pay insurance and taxes, and they’ll still be responsible for the usual expenses of maintaining a home - but it will be their own home, in their own town, and built with their own hands, along with the hands of hundreds of volunteers.
Unfortunately Taos Habitat for Humanity is only able to continue building our homes when visiting work groups come in from out-of-state to help us. That’s because they not only volunteer their unskilled labor, but they also provide monetary donations which allow us to buy the necessary building materials and pay our contracted construction supervisor’s salary. Most Habitat for Humanity affiliates can count on local businesses and industry to provide groups of volunteers and donations for teambuilding experiences to build on a weekly basis, but Taos is unique, as we all know! Jobs are scarce, industry is limited, and times are hard here.
We’re definitely open to providing team-building experiences for local businesses, churches and organizations, but we can only do that with a donation, or arrange for the local group to work with a visiting work group so no donation is necessary.
Our final visiting work group of 2013 left last week, so we’re done building until next February, when a group of 15 from Palm Beach, Fla., will bless us with their help and open hearts at our sacred ground on Lamento del Coyote again.
We’d love to have you join us in building this home, as an individual volunteer or with your own group of friends or coworkers. It’s a chance to learn new skills, make new friends, and change lives — and not just the lives of the family for whom you’ll be building, either.
It’s amazing what happens at the build site when a group of regular people from all over Taos come together to work with groups of regular people from all over the country. The world tends to open up, the load (of handmade adobe bricks!) becomes so much lighter, and the future suddenly becomes something to be excited about and to look forward to. People can still work together, people do still care.
Please help us build for Taos. All you need is a pair of sturdy shoes or boots, some free time, and the willingness to create sacred ground.
Susan Nuss lives in Taos and is the Volunteer Coordinator for Taos Habitat for Humanity. Contact her at (575)758-7827 and [ email ].
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