For the last four Saturdays, volunteers have descended on a home in Melbeta, determined to make it livable by winter. The Habitat for Humanity project will provide a new home to a woman who is a disabled veteran and single mother, and her teenager.
“It started in January when we bought the house,” Larry McCaslin, construction manager at Habitat said.
While most Habitat projects involve building a house from the ground up, occasionally they take on home rehab projects like this one. The idea when the organization made the purchase was to fix up the home until it was in like-new condition.
“That way she can live with minimal anticipated upkeep and maintenance,” McCaslin said.
McCaslin said that while the home wasn’t in terrible shape when they bought it, it still needed a significant amount of work.
“The plumbing was bad,” McCaslin said. “There was no heat or AC, there was bad flooring and the doors and windows were bad.”
Slowly but surely, the home is coming together. On Saturday, crews with Gering Valley Plumbing installed the new sewer line and worked on putting a new hot water heater into place.
McCaslin said he’d had tremendous success in getting businesses and organizations involved in the project.
Sixteen members of the Western Nebraska Community College baseball team were on site Saturday alongside Ryan Burgner, WNCC athletic director, and Chris Wolf, the Veterans Upward Bound program assistant at WNCC.
“It’s important to give back to the communities who have always supported us,” Burgner said. “The appreciation that comes with helping someone who needs it is something they can carry with them.”
Hunter Nelson, a student and baseball player at WNCC, said when Burgner brought up the project, he saw it as a fun opportunity to do some hands-on work and make a difference.
“I’m from Colorado, but I always enjoy helping all around this area,” Nelson said, adding that volunteering makes him feel more connected to the community.
His teammate, Ory Fricke, pointed out that if the men hadn’t been volunteering, they likely would have still been sleeping. He said he was happy to give his time to a good cause.
“The family that needs it, really needs it,” Fricke said.
McCaslin said the woman who will eventually live in the house has also put in a significant amount of time on the project and is grateful to have help.
“I think it means the world to her,” McCaslin said. “She’s had a rough life and this is going to be safe, affordable housing.”
McCaslin said her current housing situation was less than ideal.
He said he hopes to have the project wrapped up by Nov. 1, but will need the help of more volunteers. Those who’d like to get involved can contact him at 308-631-0875, Jim Kozal at 308-631-7411 or Becky Estrada at 308-641-1348.