Appleton parishes team up for Habitat for Humanity’s Catholic Build

By Jean Peerenboom | For The Compass | April 30, 2015

Colchado family, members of St. Therese Parish, excited about new home

APPLETON — Appleton Catholics are putting their faith into practice as they provide a local family with a new house through the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity.

Jaime and Mayra Colchado, pictured with their children Jadira, 11, and Isaisa, 6, stand in front of their future home in Little Chute. The Colchados’ home is being built through a collaborative effort between the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity and the Catholic parishes in Appleton. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Jaime and Mayra Colchado, pictured with their children Jadira, 11, and Isaisa, 6, stand in front of their future home in Little Chute. The Colchados’ home is being built through a collaborative effort between the Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity and the Catholic parishes in Appleton. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

The Catholic Build began in March and is expected to be completed by the end of June, when the house will be purchased by new owners Jaime and Mayra Colchado, who are “very excited” about becoming homeowners.

The idea that launched this joint venture by all eight Appleton Catholic parishes began with a letter to St. Thomas More Parish. Fr. Jim Lucas, pastor, gave the letter to Mary Beth Nienhaus after daily Mass one morning. Nienhaus, who is a member of Sacred Heart Parish and an area philanthropist, “thought it would be a great idea,” she said.

She approached St. Joseph Parish, which had participated in Habitat Inter-Faith builds in the past. She also approached Tom Simons, director of development and communications for the Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity. Both were receptive to the idea of a Catholic Build.

It was “around Thanksgiving 2014 that the idea of all eight Catholic parishes uniting to build a house was suggested,” said Fr. Jim Leary, pastor of St. Joseph Parish. His parish was happy to lend support. It had been part of the Habitat Build program for three years. The first two were as part of Habitat Inter-Faith Builds, for which a group of eight or nine churches united to build a house in the summer of 2013, he said. “It was a mixture of many different faiths. We were the Catholic rep along with St. Mary’s in Appleton.”

Nienhaus said, “Tom Simon said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if it was for a Catholic family?’” He found an applicant family that was part of St. Therese Parish. “They are a wonderful family,” Nienhaus said. “I met them on the build a few weeks ago.”

The Colchado family was acquainted with Habitat because Jaime’s sister-in-law had gone through the Habitat program. “We are very excited,” Jaime Colchado kept repeating. “My wife is very happy; we will have more space. My kids will have their own space.” The family has a son and a daughter, who each will now have a room of their own in the three-bedroom home in Little Chute.

The Catholic Build was organized with the help of the Habitat staff, said Vaya Kiel, communications specialist. All eight parishes were invited to a meeting. All agreed to participate. They needed to raise a total of $75,000, which is required for full home sponsorship, Kiel said. Habitat also participates in the fund-raising.

Each parish was asked to donate $5,000 to get started. “The parishes are on track to raise the total for the build,” she said. If parishes have members with building skills or know companies willing to donate materials, they can provide in-kind donations also.

Each parish had to provide volunteers for a total of 250. Many volunteers help with the construction of a home, wielding hammers and other tools, painting and drywalling. Other volunteers prepare meals on build days, or other tasks surrounding the fundraising. “We have a quilt-making group that makes quilts for our homes,” Kiel said.

While volunteers must be at least 14 years old to work on-site, it is mostly adults who do the construction. The younger volunteers help with painting and landscaping, or fundraising.

The Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity, which covers Calumet, Outagamie, Waupaca and northern Winnebago counties, started in 1993 by building new homes for people. Now, they have added a program that involves rehabilitating existing homes “to keep people safe in their homes,” Kiel said. This year, Habitat will build or rehab 15 homes.

At the end of the Build, the family purchases the home through a zero-percent mortgage from Habitat. Their monthly payments replenish Habitat funds for future builds.

Each new homeowner also commits to “500 hours of sweat equity and 50 hours of education,” Kiel said. “They help build their own home, but also work on other Habitat projects and provide other service in the community.”

Habitat provides a site contractor, who brings building expertise, and a senior crew that works year-round for the nonprofit organization. This means there are always skilled workers on site and training is provided to volunteers.

For the Catholic Build, each parish was given about four days for which they need to provide volunteers and lunch. The parishes have a contact person, who is a liaison with Habitat. The volunteers for each day come from two or three parishes, so they get to meet new people while providing service.

Deacon Tony Abts, the contact person for St. Therese Parish, said this project is a perfect fit for Catholics. “It really is the corporal works of mercy in action,” he said. And, the parish is delighted to be helping a family from their own membership.

He participates on the days assigned to St. Therese Parish. “I love it,” he said. “First, I think Habitat is really well organized and their philosophy is a hand up rather than a hand out. They work with families to get affordable housing. I buy into that.”

“Second,” he said, “I love building. It’s fun and great to work with like-minded volunteers. When you do this with a faith group, you start with prayer. It is a positive environment in which to volunteer.”

Nienhaus echoed those sentiments. “I am really impressed with Habitat. It is so well-organized. Safety is a priority. They really know what they’re doing. … Hopefully we can do this more often. I’m going to try to get more involved with them when this is over.”

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