‘Where the story begins’

ELE‘ELE — Peter Wiederoder, president of the Kauai Habitat for Humanity board of directors, asked people not to shoosh the kids Friday afternoon in the muggy humid air that blanketed ‘Ele‘ele.

“This is a fantastic day,” Wiederoder said. “This day is for families.”

Wiederoder was one of the presenters of six keys to homeowners in the 107-home ‘Ele‘ele Iluna Neighborhood. He presented the traditional copy of the family Bible and key to Frank and Shanna Cruz, the final family who capped the blessing being offered by Rev. Ed Howell of the St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The blessing was punctuated with the glee of children impatient to get up and frolic from under the shade of the temporary canopy erected as a hedge against the ‘Ele‘ele heat. Howell recruited one of them, Jevin Moises, a son of the next batch of six homes scheduled to be completed in the neighborhood, to assist in the blessing.

Shanna Cruz’s son Seraph-John Cruz squirmed and wailed in protest, wrapped in the maile that formerly draped across the entrance to their home as the front door was opened.

“He doesn’t want to leave,” Cruz said. “But we’re still waiting for the Certificate of Occupancy so we still go back to continue packing and getting rid of things until we receive the notice.”

Other homeowners who received the blessing and their keys included Marti Smith, Nick Wehrly, Jeremy and Rebekah Albano, Cory Carveiro and Kawehi Harric, and Nalani “Lefty” Kanahele and ‘ohana.

The families have each put in more than 550 volunteer hours to the building of their homes in order to keep costs down, said Stephen Spears, executive director for the Kauai Habitat for Humanity.

Eventually, ‘Ele‘ele Iluna will provide 107 affordable homes to qualifying families on Kauai.

“Of all the work we could be doing, this project will help the most people in the least amount of time,” Spears said.

Carrice Caspillo Gardner represented Gov. David Ige, and Kaulana Finn represented Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Both said there is a need for affordable housing.

“I live across the way at the ‘Ele‘ele Nani,” Finn said. “When I put on my jogging shoes and come this way, and on Congresswoman Gabbard’s visits, we drive through and have seen the progress in the past seven months. Congresswoman said, ‘It takes hands to build a house, it takes heart to build a home. Welcome home! This is where the story begins.’”

Spears said the next increment of six homes are on their way and should be dedicated in the next few months. Plans are in place for more homes.

Since 1992, Kauai Habitat for Humanity has built 117 affordable homes and made critical repairs to 28 existing homes for families whose household income is between 30 to 80 percent of the median Kauai income.

“Because the critical need for affordable housing continues to persist on our island, Kauai Habitat for Humanity has pledged to scale up our capacity and build our next 100 homes before the next decade,” Spears said.


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