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Habitat for Humanity builds homes, community

Volunteer Deb Boehme, soon to be a Habitat for Humanity homeowner, holds the board as Christina Valenzuela runs the miter saw at the Mesa del Rio job site Saturday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Temperatures rose steadily on this recent summer morning as the buzzing sound of a miter saw cutting two-by-fours and the echoey thumping sound of hammers driving nails into lumber competed for attention on this dirt lot on Albuquerque’s West Side.

Dozens of volunteers soaked in sweat and coated in dust worked purposely to frame a house that someday soon will provide shelter for a family in need.

On this Saturday morning it’s volunteers from Sandia National Laboratory and its Pride Alliance Network who are providing the muscle.

Since 1987, the Albuquerque chapter of Habitat for Humanity has built close to 200 homes for families in need of stable housing, and these homes are built with mostly volunteers from around the community.

The group of around 15 Sandia employees jumped at the chance to give back to the community, Sandia Pride Alliance Network’s director Chris LaFleur said.

LaFleur said the organization is made up of LGBT individuals and allies, and the building of the home was a chance for the organization to help out the community during Pride Month.

Since 2000, Sandia has had 3,500 volunteers help build 16 homes in the Albuquerque area, said Luke Frank, a Sandia spokesman.

“I really like the opportunity they give us to learn different aspects of building a house,” LaFleur said.

Workers stand up a framed wall last week as they work on a Habitat for Humanity home. Since 1987, the Albuquerque chapter has built close to 200 homes. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

In addition to learning carpentry skills, volunteers play a crucial role in the process of building the houses by donating both time and money.

“You can’t really even put a number on the value that they create,” Bill Reilly, construction manager with Habitat for Humanity, said of the volunteers.

Volunteers will spend up to 12 months working to build the houses, Reilly said. Even the eventual homeowner spends hours working on the house.

While each house requires countless hours of volunteer work, the outcome is affordable and sustainable housing for families in need of assistance.

“It’s our way of giving back to the community and supporting affordable housing in Albuquerque,” Reilly said.

One of the homes currently being built will one day be occupied by single-mother Nadine Zazueta, her two kids, and their pets.

“These are complete strangers rooting for us and putting in their personal time to make this happen,” Zazueta said. “I’m really concerned that I’m not able to soak it all in. I don’t want to forget anyone or anything connected with this effort. It’s so amazing,”

Reilly said the dedication and manpower that goes into the houses leads to better outcomes for the families who will one day live there.

“The true true impact is with the children who grow up in habitat homes,” Reilly said.

“The high school graduation rate is better for kids that grow up in a habitat home. They grow up in a stable environment,” he said.

The impact of the organization extends to the volunteers, with many volunteers returning year after year to build housing.

Bob Reiden, a former Sandia employee, has been volunteering with the organization for the past 15 years.

Reiden said that it is the people who work on making these houses a reality that keep him coming back.

“The friendships you make, the camaraderie involved, that’s the biggest part for me,” he said.

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