At 8 a.m. a few Saturdays ago, a bare floor on a foundation in a cul-de-sac in southcentral Casper greeted a couple dozen volunteers equipped with good intentions, hammers, tape measures, levels, a circular saw or two, and a vision for a home for a family.

By the end of the day, the volunteers pounded nails to frame walls, erected the walls, braced the walls, and hoisted the particle-board sheeting for the future house of Tifanee Jackson and her two children to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Habitat for Humanity, the Heart of Wyoming on May 4.

Jackson has lived in a dismal rental world for four years, and looked forward to getting out.

"It's going to be a financial help buying a house, knowing that the money is going to our future instead of to somewhere that they won't even fix the holes in the walls from the prior people," she said.

"Because you never thought that buying a house could be affordable -- it's like, being a single mom, there's no way," Jackson said. "But with Habitat, there is a way."

Jackson completed the Climb Wyoming program that teaches job skills to single mothers, and through that heard about Habitat for Humanity, she said.

She didn't think she could afford a house even if it was sponsored by Habitat, but read the literature and realized it was possible, she said. "I decided this is something I could do for my children and myself so I went out on a limb and applied and went through the process and got selected."

Jackson has been a teller at Platte Valley Bank for about a year, and some of her co-workers have volunteered to build the house, she said.

Before she ever got to work on her own house, she had to work on others.

"This was my first time," Jackson said. "Here's a hammer and here you go, yep, like the blisters and all, I'm ready for it."

Tim Anderson, president of Habitat's board, said the local branch of the national Habitat for Humanity has built more than 35 homes since 1994. "We'll do four this year, so we're on pace to do one every 90 days."

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Jackson's house is on Shumway Avenue in a Habitat-built 13-lot subdivision named Harris Crossing in honor of chapter founders Don and Hallie Harris, Anderson said.

Two houses are finished and occupied, another will move into a home this month, one moving into another home in June. Jackson's home will be ready for occupancy later this summer. Excavation for the sixth home will being in about two months, he said.

After the home is finished, the Habitat chapter arranges for a 30-year 0% loan and the mortgage payments are plowed into the next construction budget, he said.

The Habitat chapter has an application and selection process throughout the year for prospective homeowners, Anderson said. "They are vetted through our selection committee. If they are selected they start working on their volunteer hours because they have to have so many volunteer hours before they can have their own home."

It is an income-qualified application. There are a lot of single-parent families, but other types of households may qualify such as two-parent families, grandparents raising children, Anderson said.

It's more than just building a house.

Besides the application process, vetting and sweat equity, Habitat works with the prospective homeowners with budgeting and financial planning, and cleaning up credit problems, he said.

"I think it's a good idea that we can provide good, safe affordable housing to these folks -- for me, that's really it," Anderson said.

"It is not a hand out, it is a hand up," he said.

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Since that day in May, the rains made building nearly impossible, Habitat's construction manager Shawn Martz said Monday.

But Tuesday morning, Martz and more than a dozen volunteers were back at the site at Harris Crossing to erect the trusses on Jackson's house.

 

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media