Habitat celebrates 17 homes built

  • Courtesy Kauai Habitat for Humanity

    Seventeen families, the largest group since Kauai Habitat for Humanity started in 1992, celebrate the completion of their homes at the Eleele Iluna neighborhood Friday at the Hanapepe Recreation Center.

HANAPEPE — The largest group of homeowners — 17 — since the start of Kauai Habitat for Humanity, recently celebrated the completion of their homes in the Eleele Iluna neighborhood at the Hanapepe Recreation Center.

“We couldn’t do it there,” said Milani Pimental, Kauai Habitat deputy director. “The neighborhood is growing, and there are a lot of children.”

The homeowners celebrated the Homeowner Recognition Ceremony, where they accepted congratulations on their accomplishments of finishing their homes in the Eleele Iluna project.

The celebration overflowed to include the “One Ohana” group of volunteers made up of members of the Episcopal churches on Kauai.

“Our home buyers worked so hard for more than a year to achieve their dream of home ownership,” said Caitlin Pounds, Kauai Habitat volunteer program manager. “We’re so proud of them.”

Each of the families received a welcome mat, a gift card to ReStore, the Kauai Habitat thrift store, a family Bible, and an original painting from volunteer Sandy Ambrose, who has been creating original artwork for new homeowners since 2011.

Stephen Spears, Kauai Habitat executive director, said a large part of what made this project possible was the support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office.

“Through a USDA 523 Technical Assistance grant, each house and lot was built and purchased by our homeowners for between $207,000 through $220,000, depending on the model they selected,” Spears said.

“These prices, which are more than $20,000 less than what Kauai Habitat offers through its affordable housing program, are possible because the grant directly covers Kauai Habitat’s overhead costs of construction management and project administration. It is simply an amazing opportunity for us, and especially our 17 homeowners in this group.”

Pimental remembered the warm comments from a homeowner, Celeste Davis, who came to the office to pick up her keys.

“Celeste’s sentiments really pay well-deserved tribute to the hard work of our construction team,” Pimental said. “They are out there each day, planning, working, and teaching homeowners and others the construction skills that will help them not only build a home, but maintain it in the years ahead.”

With the critical need for affordable housing continuing to persist on Kauai, the goal of Kauai Habitat for Humanity is to construct and deliver at least 30 truly affordable homes a year, states a release from Kauai Habitat.

“The next time you build with Kauai Habitat, think of the seeds you are planting,” said Leona Sa McDermott, Kauai Habitat board president. “Working together, we can transform empty lots, patches of dirt, into places where families can grow, where children can dream big and parents can cultivate lasting change.”

The nonprofit group has been successful in utilizing subdivision development and leveraging volunteer resources in an effort to combat the affordable housing crisis affecting not only Kauai but the entire state.

This feat has earned Kauai Habitat national recognition by Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford during the Habitat for Humanity National Affiliate Conference held in March.

“This model of building is what we as the county need to support,” said Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, who offered his own congratulations to the new homeowners. “The partnership between government and nonprofits is so critical to our community’s success.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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