Habitat for Humanity build in Birch Bay draws to a close

Julio Ortiz, l., Juana Mendoza, r., and their family and friends celebrated the end of construction on their home at Leeside Drive in Birch Bay. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County.

By Stefanie Donahue

Nine months ago, volunteers with Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County began construction of a home at Leeside Drive in Birch Bay. In July, they completed construction, and Julio Ortiz, his wife Juana Mendoza and their five kids stepped into a home of their own.

It took nearly four years for the family to obtain a build permit due to the property’s designation as a class-four wetland. During the wait, they completed what Habitat for Humanity calls “sweat equity,” which requires partner homebuyers to complete 500 hours of labor at the organization. The family also put down $500 on the home, which they purchased from Habitat for Humanity at cost and Habitat financed at 0 percent interest. The family will pay about $350 per month on the mortgage, all while building home equity.

Volunteers came forward to assist through the cold winter months after the property build commenced in October. Women Build, an international Habitat for Humanity program dedicated to women with an interest in learning construction skills, recruited volunteers for the project.

In early interviews, Ortiz said he was the sole financial provider for his family. He works at Clark’s Berry Farm in Lynden. Several months out of the year, Ortiz is a general laborer and supervisor for on-site equipment – during harvest, he works up to 16 hours per day. He and his family pursued assistance through Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County after being denied a loan to buy a home; previously, they received assistance from the Bellingham Housing Authority.

Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County executive director John Moon said the organization was committed to making the home as energy efficient as possible. The organization installed solar panels and took measures to make the home energy net zero.

The final build day took place in late July. To celebrate, Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County hosted a dedication ceremony, which featured an opening prayer and blessing from Reverend Doug Bunnell, recognition of sponsors and volunteers, remarks from the family and staff and a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Moving forward, Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County will embark on a build in Acme this month. Those interested in lending a hand are invited to volunteer at a build site, in the store or at an event. To learn more, visit hfhwhatcom.org.

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