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Habitat for Humanity homes give families a sense of pride, hope

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It takes an army of volunteers to build each Habitat for Humanity home. 

Since 1992, Habitat for Humanity of the Black Hills has built nearly 100 homes for local families.

Vanessa Red Bird, of Rapid City, spent her teenage years in a Habitat home owned by her mom, and now she is going through the process of acquiring one. “It took my mom a few years to pay it off, but it was a way different process.”

“It’s not a free program," said Randy Creasman, Habitat for Humanity Faith and Family Relations associate. "It’s going to take time to get through but we make it affordable by using volunteers, donated material and donated subcontractor. Each house averages 250 individual volunteers, skilled and unskilled labor.”

In addition to the work by volunteers, future homeowners must also put in "sweat equity" in order to acquire a home.

“Just getting the sweat equity is a struggle,” Red Bird said.

Each applicant must put in 250 hours, some of which can be class time. Red Bird said the financial classes were very helpful and necessary if someone is going to buy a house. “They taught us how to budget, gain financial freedom and it was a free program.”

Families who take the classes are also assigned a mentor.

Red Bird's home is part of the Garfield Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which includes eight homes in one city block on Rapid City's north side. It's one of the largest revitalization projects in the city.

“In the past we would build a home to get a family in," Creasman said. "Now we have a new approach, impact an entire neighborhood. They (the families) are in this together. They don’t have to be friends but we want them familiar with one another so we are holding barbecues, hot chocolate socials ... we are trying to build a community.”

Red Bird said she has a friend who is moving into the neighborhood, and "we drive by almost every day to see the progress."

Families have already been assigned to six of the eight homes. “We hope to have all homes in place by early 2017,” Creasman said.

Habitat for Humanity is a Christian-based organization, but potential homeowners do not have to be Christian to utilize its services, Creasman said. “We try to be respectful to their religion, as long as they understand that we pray at the job site, we pray at meetings, and every house gets blessed at the dedication ceremony and families are provided a Bible.”

In addition to the Garfield project, Habitat for Humanity of the Black Hills is looking at building more homes on the north side of Rapid City.

“We are building a sense of pride and a sense of hope,” Creasman said.

Red Bird said going through the process of applying for a Habitat home has been a great experience, and she feels fortunate that her and her daughter will have a home. "It’s within anyone’s reach if they take the time to do it," she said. 

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