Blaine family all settled in Habitat home

Published on Thu, Nov 27, 2003
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Blaine family all settled in Habitat home

This Thanksgiving, the Heinzer family will celebrate in their own kitchen. Something they haven�t been able to do yet as a family.

Mark and Debbie Heinzer, as well as their toddler twins Anthony and Rachel, and 11-year-old daughter Alysha have moved into their new three bedroom, 1,048 square foot home at 940 Cedar Street, which is the first Habitat for Humanity home built in Blaine.

The Heinzers, who until now only rented, applied for a Habitat home last year, just as the Whatcom County chapter was preparing to find a site in Blaine. Soon after, they were notified they had been the recipient of the home, and work soon began. The Heinzers completed 500 hours of work to their home, side by side with volunteers and Habitat for Humanity workers.

And this past Saturday morning, many of those volunteers and Habitat workers gathered in the very kitchen and living room they helped construct, as the Heinzer�s new home � the first Blaine Habitat home � was dedicated.

�Everybody�s doing a little bit, making this all come together. Thanks for all the volunteer efforts everyone,� said Father Mike Robertson. �Now it�s time for the Heinzers to make this into a home. What we do here is create the opportunity for a home.�

�Look up and down this street and this house looks like all the others. But in fact, it�s a very different place. You get a feeling there are so many people in your home ... Do not let anyone forget the value of what they�ve done here.�

Whatcom County executive director Terry Mattson said there are two things about an organization that are important: helping people and building community.

�The means (for Habitat) is houses. Building community connect people together,� he said. �Every 28 minutes, there is one of these events going on � somewhere in the world taking place. That is bigger than ourselves.�

The Habitat organization is now in 92 countries, and has built 165,000 homes built to date. Within Whatcom County, 14 homes have been completed.

�And every 28 minutes, we�re adding more,� Mattson said. �Here in Blaine we have been given a wonderful welcome and I wish every city could be as friendly as the city of Blaine.�

�Thanks to all the volunteers and the businesses,� he said. �They�ve all helped a family that at that point they didn�t even know. �Without them, the house doesn�t get done.�

One volunteer he pointed out was Jim Higby, a retiree who worked for the Department of Homeland Security, and had become a �God-send� for the Blaine project.

�When projects kind of stall and problems arise, God seems to raise up an angel and keep the project going,� Mattson said. �We said, Lord, send an angel, because we need to get this house done. And Jim has been the backbone of this house. He�s been a God-send.�

Higby, who was a bit embarrassed from the attention, said retired people have time to devote and �the results are a happy family and I think it�s well worth it.�

City manager Gary Tomsic spoke as well at the dedication, and encouraged the Heinzer family to give back to the community that gave to them.

�I was sitting here looking at all of you, and thought wouldn�t it be wonderful if every family had this many people welcoming them to Blaine,� he said. �We welcome you. We want to see you around city hall and help make our community a better place.�

Al Dahl, who for years has been installing locks in the Whatcom County Habitat for Humanity homes, represented the participating businesses, and thanked all who participated. Cards were placed all the walls of the house indicating what business helped in what aspect of the home.

�As business people, and as individuals, when you give there�s a special something that happens inside of you,� he said, looking at the cards. �People will come together and will work hard, and that makes me to think that Blaine could not be a good place to live if not for the organizations such as this and others.�

Three years ago, he said, he was at home praying specifically for a Habitat home in Blaine and shortly after Terry called him and said he was thinking about Blaine.

�This has been a faith building experience for me and a house building experience for the Heinzers,� Dahl said. �It�s just been fun seeing new faces, families and volunteers. I know there�s willingness and readiness in these ventures, among both volunteers and businesses for more homes.�

To end the dedication ceremony, Clark Casey, who installs the display of American flags on homes, gave a flag to the Heinzer family. �This is the finishing touch on your home, a symbol of freedom,� he said.

�This opportunity has really given us faith in dreams and letting things happen,� Debbie Heinzer said. �I know God will bless each of you 100 times over. I am so appreciative to have met so many wonderful people. We have been so blessed being able to receive these gifts. We could never be able to thank you enough. I can�t believe we have a mortgage instead of rent.�

Second home starting
Founded in Georgia in the1970s, the Habitat for Humanity program has built more than 165,000 new homes using volunteer labor, donated materials and low interest loans. �

�We�ve been in Whatcom County since 1987 and in the last few years it�s really come alive,� Mattson said. �We feel there�s a real need and there are certainly families that qualify.�

The first step is selecting a family, or perhaps two, for whom to build a home.

�Selection is based on need and a family with children will probably be a focus,� Mattson said. �The neediest family who applies is the one we select.�

The next element is to find a low-cost or donated lot to build the home on. �If we get two lots donated we�ll build two houses,� Mattson said, adding that partial donations were also welcome. �Donations to the program are tax-deductible.�

Following that, three-pronged support from the community � churches and civic clubs, government and business � raises funds, volunteers and donations, Mattson said.

�It�s an all-city project. The city will house one of its own and everybody needs to be involved.�

Some members of the Blaine business community are already in the swing of things for a second project and have already helped with other Habitat projects. A second lot is currently being examined for the next Habitat home, and Mattson is hoping to build a home in Birch Bay as well.

�We want a Blaine/Birch Bay plumber, a Blaine/Birch Bay electrician, Blaine/Birch Bay contractors, Blaine/Birch Bay windows and doors and lumber,� he said.

The program doesn�t rely completely on donations but uses a revolving loan fund to make up the difference. When the house is complete the new homeowner will pay off the loan, interest-free for the first 20 years, with payments fitting the family budget.

�Habitat is not a giveaway program,� Mattson said. �This is a hand up, not a handout.�
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