A present too big to fit beneath a tree
Habitat for Humanity of Summit and Wasatch Counties newest homeowner Audrey Salcido gave her three daughters a gift far too large to wrap beneath the tree this weekend: a cottage in Heber City.
The carefully planned surprise that began in June motivated volunteer builders to put in extra hours to complete her house, and her neighbor’s house in time for the holidays.
The twin homes built by Habitat in Heber have two bedrooms, a bath and a two-car garage, with large front yards that volunteers expect to landscape after the snow melts.
Wednesday, Dec. 21, Salcido, and her new neighbor, Habitat beneficiary Melvin Sweatfield and his sons, Dylan and Shepton, joined together to celebrate the official dedication ceremony of their cottages they helped to build with Habitat volunteers.
Cradled in the midst of a circle of 50 volunteers, friends and family members, the homeowners christened their cottages with a clip of a ribbon. As an added holiday gift from volunteers, the new homes were decked in holiday lights and trimmed with one Christmas tree each.
Sweatfield hurried to the ceremony after work to thank the organization for giving him the opportunity to have a home and to help build it. He regretted to say his wife, Amy, was unable to attend since she was in the hospital.
"It’s something unreal," Sweatfield told the crowd. "I’m a mechanic by trade, but I’ve worked in construction in the past, but there’s a pride you get working on your own house and not many people get to say that. If it weren’t for Habitat, it wouldn’t be possible."
Sweatfield and Salcido were required by Habitat to commit 200 hours each of sweat equity to help build their home, meeting volunteers every Saturday beginning at 8:30 a.m. to hammer nails, pour cement or put up drywall. The families will also be paying for the homes through a no-interest loan, and taking classes through Habitat to help them make payments.
Habitat volunteer Jeff Ames, owner of Park City Construction, noted the hard work that went into building the homes, and the rapid and efficient pace volunteers worked to meet the target date. Ames calculates that all told, volunteers only spent 33 days building the homes.
"I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short time with well-meaning, good-hearted people. I’m proud of the design and quality of construction," he said. "We built two houses in the time it typically takes to build one. It’s remarkable."
It was a "mad dash" to the finish, according to Ames, but well worth the extra effort. Salcido stayed up all night to clean her home, he noted.
"We so wanted to fulfill Audrey’s dreams," he said. "These are two very deserving, hard-working families. The reward for us really is the look on their faces right now." Ames explains that what he enjoys most about volunteering for Habitat is the effort that goes into each project
"What you see before you is the work of basically unskilled laborers. These volunteers have great hearts, great intentions and genuine feelings for community and their fellow man," he said. "What I like about [this organization] is that you don’t just give money, you give of yourself."
Jay Schulze, a member of Habitat’s construction committee, noted everyone came through in the final hours. In the final days there was plenty of work to go around, he says: workers installed linoleum tile and carpet.
"One week ago, there was no siding, no trim and no cabinets," he claims. "For Jeff Ames, this project has really been his baby from the start and he was here multiple times a week. We also had people from construction companies who had driven by the home stop and volunteer to help us."
Habitat’s family selection committee chose from 12 applications from families living in sub-standard living conditions a year ago to narrow the list down to the Salcidos, and the Sweatfields.
The project also received a number of monetary donations from local businesses and building companies who donated time to teach volunteers about construction.
Summit County and Wasatch County, along with a long list of Park City area businesses and organizations helped support the project including Park City Signs, Park City Rotary Club and Casa Bella Furniture and Design. This fall, The Park City Area Home Builders Association donated $25,000 to Habitat — $15,000 of which came from the organization’s Showcase of Homes event this summer.
As part of the ceremony, Wednesday’s silent crowd in Heber joined in a blessing of the house led by Father Jim Flynn.
Salcido was given the opportunity to speak afterward, and held up framed photographs of her three daughters with the help of her mother and stepfather.
"I just want to thank you all for all of your help,"she said. "This is a Christmas my kids will never forget."
For more information about how to donate or volunteer time to Habitat for Humanity of Summit and Wasatch Counties, call 658-1400.
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