AmeriCorps volunteer Ryan Botkin, whose family built the Habitat for Humanity house where he lives, is now a member of the construction crew for new Habitat homes in Port Townsend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

AmeriCorps volunteer Ryan Botkin, whose family built the Habitat for Humanity house where he lives, is now a member of the construction crew for new Habitat homes in Port Townsend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

AmeriCorps worker returns home to join Habitat for Humanity crew

Volunteers can help organization in a variety of ways

PORT TOWNSEND — Ryan Botkin grew up, as he says, “around the Peninsula.”

Then, when he was a teenager, his family connected with Habitat for Humanity and built their house in Chimacum. It’s one of the dozens built by single people, couples and families partnering with Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County.

The chapter, one of hundreds around the globe, has opened its application window for six more houses, for which construction will start this summer.

Information about applying to become a Habitat partner, as the homeowners are known, can be found at www.habitatejc.org, along with details about volunteering with the 24-year-old organization. The chapter office can be reached at 360-379-2827 and info@habitatejc.org.

The website also has a place to register for the free online orientations for potential applicants. The deadline to apply to become a building partner is March 4.

“We take people of all different families, everyone from single people to families with many kids,” said Leanne Smith, the chapter’s homeowner services manager.

The criteria to become a Habitat building partner includes income at 80 percent or below the area median, which was reported at $55,127 in 2019. Age is not a barrier for Habitat ownership, Smith added.

Botkin, now 23 and a college graduate, is a Habitat builder for the second time. As the chapter’s AmeriCorps volunteer lead, he’s on the East Jefferson County crew with workers from many walks of life.

“We get a lot of really different kinds of people coming to volunteer,” he said.

In the current climate of division, Botkin added, it’s exciting to see builders laboring toward a shared goal: an affordable home.

Habitat for Humanity homes are built by staff construction supervisors plus workers who put in “sweat equity” — volunteer hours — to keep the costs low. Donations and revenue from the Habitat Stores also help make Habitat houses available to people who wouldn’t otherwise become homeowners.

After Botkin completed his degree in political science at Corban University in Salem, Ore., he thought he might move somewhere other than Jefferson County; somewhere with a lower cost of living. Then he changed his mind.

“Maybe instead of running away from the problem, maybe I can do something about it,” he said.

Demand for Habitat-built homes across the North Olympic Peninsula, meanwhile, is high and getting higher.

“We got 27 applications for the two homes to be built this year,” said Colleen Robinson, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County.

That chapter is in the process of finishing its 35th and 36th homes since its inception in 1991, she added. Those two houses are part of the Maloney Heights community in Port Angeles.

Habitat of Clallam has also purchased more property in both Port Angeles and Sequim to build more homes. Next year, the plan is to build a duplex or triplex in Port Angeles for veterans and their families, Robinson said.

In East Jefferson County, Habitat has completed 53 homes since that chapter began in 1998. The staff and volunteers are now in the process of building seven more houses as well as renovating two existing homes for new owners.

Ken Smith, Habitat of East Jefferson’s construction site supervisor, emphasized that people can volunteer in a variety of ways that don’t necessarily involve saws and hammers.

“They can work in the [Habitat] Store; they can do office work,” he said, “and if they do work on the job site, they don’t have to know how to do construction,” because he and the staff teach those skills.

Botkin, for his part, said he’s been challenged in this way.

“I’m not super experienced in construction,” he said, so he listens and learns from the site supervisor.

When asked if he sees a connection between his Habitat work and his political science degree, Botkin didn’t hesitate.

“I totally do. Working in a nonprofit, you have a real mission, a social mission, which is something I was really looking for,” he said.

Building affordable housing is hands-on collaborative problem solving, after all; Botkin wanted to be part of the housing solution for families like his own.

“I’m very thankful to be here. I’ve had a really good history with Habitat. I’m really thankful to be on the other side.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Ryan Botkin is part of the crew building new Habitat for Humanity homes in Port Townsend. Habitat’s application window is open now for six more houses to be built starting this summer in Jefferson County. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

Ryan Botkin is part of the crew building new Habitat for Humanity homes in Port Townsend. Habitat’s application window is open now for six more houses to be built starting this summer in Jefferson County. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

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