One in, one to build: Habitat dedicates house, breaks ground

PORT TOWNSEND — Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County presented the keys to the new owner of one house and broke ground for another in back-to-back ceremonies Sunday that mark a step up in the chapter’s building schedule.

“It’s all part of a commitment to push ourselves beyond a two-house-a-year limit to four,” said Fred Kimball, chapter president, at the first ceremony.

“We have three this year and next year hope to hit four. It’s a big task that takes all the volunteers pulling in the same direction.”

Holly Varah received the keys to a two-bedroom house on the RoseWind Cohousing Development in Port Townsend. RoseWind donated two lots for houses built with the help of Habitat eight years ago, Kimball said, and when one family decided to move on, Habitat was able to buy it back and help Varah purchase it.

Varah, who works at the Upstage, is a 1999 Port Townsend High School graduate who has been living with her daughters Tiger, 8, and Violet, 6, in a one-room cabin in the woods with no running water, no electrical hookup and no bathing facilities.

“They lived off the grid for almost two years,” said Denise Hubbard, Varah’s mother.

The cabin was about the size of the outbuilding of the RoseWind House, Hubbard said. It was the first project completed by a framing class led by Kimball and sponsored by Peninsula College and the Homebuilders Association.

Rachel Williams, Habitat construction coordinator, thanked the volunteers who helped Varah renovate the house, including Russ Ritter, site coordinator, who worked three days a week on the project.

Williams also thanked long-time volunteer Ralph Williams, newcomer Jerry Rowe and Varah’s Habitat partners Sue Kutsch and Gay Boltinghouse.

“This has been amazing process,” Varah said of being selected and putting in sweat equity. “It’s not just a house. It has changed so many things for us.”

Habitat board member David Eekhoff blessed the house and explained that it embodies the biblical concept of Ebenezer, meaning a “rock of help” that sets things straight.

For families who can’t afford adequate housing, owning their own home is a big step toward turning their lives around.

“I believe that every house we build becomes an Ebenezer, not just for one person but for the whole community,” Eekhoff said. “In that spirit, the community came together to create an Ebenezer for Holly, a place of hope, a place of new beginnings, a place where she can gather with her friends and family and celebrate life.”

After a reception at Varah’s house, the action moved to 21st Street, where Francisca deLanphear and her six children, ages 2 to 13, broke ground for their new house. An employee at Caring Hands day care, deLanphear is also a student at Peninsula College and is planning a career in nursing.

The family has been living in a three-bedroom apartment, she said.

“This is like a dream,” deLanphear said. “Everyone has been so wonderful.”

The family’s pastor, Rebekah Wolff of Beacon Light Center in Port Hadlock, blessed the house, and Jackie Neet played “The Solid Rock” on the clarinet.

The family sang “Jesus Loves Me” in English and Spanish, then wielded shovels with Habitat partners Karen Burge and her daughter, Angela, and Jean and David Andrianoff.

“This is the start of the fourth project this year and the biggest house to date — five bedrooms,” Kimball said.

The house will be completed next spring, he said, and is adjacent to two houses that will be dedicated this fall. Among the family and friends attending the dedication of Varah’s house were her mother, Denise Hubbard, and her grandmother, Clare Hartley, who lives in Alaska.

Valerie James, a singer who performs at the Upstage, brought Varah a housewarming basket of presents.

Upstage regular Byron Pinegar presented Varah with a bouquet of flowers.

“There is no way I could have done this by myself,” Varah said. “I feel so loved, supported . . . and really lucky.”

________

Reporter Jennifer Jackson can be reached at jjackson@olypen.com.

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