For 25 years, Habitat for Humanity of Taos has made life a little better and richer for one family at a time, one house at a time. Along the way, volunteers and the homeowner learn valuable skills.
Habitat for Humanity of Taos will throw a house-warming party for its latest homeowners, the Padillas, today (April 26). The Padillas, as do all qualifying Habitat homeowners, put hundreds of hours of sweat and work into building not only their own house but also helping on other homes as well.
Every house is built from the ground up, with most of the work done by volunteers, according to Cynthia Arvidson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Taos. Homeowners "are required to put in 500 hours of 'sweat equity,' including 150 hours on their own home," Arvidson said.
The Taos Habitat organization is affiliated with, but receives no funding from, Habitat International, the parent organization which focuses on building houses in other countries. The Taos Habitat must fund all of its own home building projects.
Along with helping build their own house, Habitat home buyers take budgeting and money management classes at Habitat along with learning home maintenance. The families learn practical building skills and learn to become comfortable speaking in public since they are expected to talk about their experiences at fundraisers, Arvidson said. "They speak to every visiting work group that comes in to work on their home."
More than 300 volunteers a year from outside of Taos visit specifically to help on Habitat homes. Many other local volunteers also join in work parties at the homesites.
"In my 10 years with Habitat for Humanity of Taos, we've heard dozens of people say that the experience of volunteering for a week, helping a hard-working family realize the dream of homeownership, meeting the family, the comradery with the other volunteers, changed their life," she said.
The Padilla's home is the 31st one completed by Habitat. Next, for the first time, the group will build two homes simultaneously on land donated by the town of Taos for affordable housing.
Funding, along with volunteer labor, dictates how many homes the organization can build. Along with donations, the group's biggest source of funding is from the Taos Habitat ReStore, open Tuesday through Saturday. The ReStore has donated art, appliances, furniture and many kinds of housewares.
The group is hosting a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta fundraiser Saturday (May 5) at El Monte Sagrado Resort in Taos. The goal is to raise $25,000. For more information, call (575) 758-7827 or visit TaosHabitat.org online.
In addition, restaurants are donating 25 percent of their revenues to Habitat on the 25th of each month.
La Cocina, EL Monte and Tim's Stray Dog Cantina participated earlier this year. QueChua is participating now in April. In May, the restaurant will be Salt + Wine and in June it will be Common Fire. Sabroso is the participating restaurant in July.
Correction: Habitat for Humanity of Taos is a Habitat International affiliate, but receives no funding from the organization. An earlier version of this story said the Taos group was not affiliated.