Future homeowners and guests joined Habitat for Humanity North Island Thursday evening to break ground on the next project in the Comox Valley.
Chief Nicole Rempel of K’ómoks First Nation, Mayor Bob Wells of Courtenay and Rev. Ingrid Brown of St. George’s United Church and the Weird Church were among those speaking and grabbing shovels to launch the 12-home, four-unit townhome project for families. All spoke of the importance of the community working together, with some noting a personal attachment to the work of Habitat for Humanity.
The new site is at 1375 Piercy Ave., with construction starting this fall and taking place over the next few years.
“Today, we gather to mark another start,” board chair Bill Wright said.
Director of construction Logan Ronhovde mentioned the importance of a donation left to the organization from a former volunteer that has allowed them to proceed with the purchase of land.
“The origination of this project actually came from a gift from someone very few of us knew. His name is Jim Wilks,” he said. “We want to recognize everything that Jim did as a volunteer many years ago and then his incredible gift.”
He also stressed the importance of the community’s working together, as did other speakers, and he listed many of the organizations and businesses that have partnered with Habitat on the project.
The Aug. 19 event also marked a bit of transition for the organization, which now seeks to replace former executive director Pat McKenna. He has returned home to Nova Scotia, though he will be taking a job with the national Habitat for Humanity office.
“This almost seems like a Pat-fest,” said Wells before speaking about how excited the city is to see the project to proceed.
A place to call home
Several of the future homeowners were on hand for the groundbreaking, and a couple spoke to the Record (last names held by request) about the importance of the new build.
For Billie, home now means living with her 15-month-old twins Finn and Felix, separately from partner Nathan, who is staying with his family. She has been working and completing her education in human services. Six months after having her twins, she lost her mother, and even though she and Nathan are from the Comox Valley, the couple has not been able to find an ideal family home situation. They had already saved $45,000 for a down payment.
“It’s been a really hard struggle,” she said.
Already, she has done her hours for the project on the last Habitat build and at the ReStore, and she is pleased at the prospects of having a family home. She knows many families are staying at campgrounds.
One of those families is Mavis and her two sons, Clyde and Luke. Like many, they have had trouble finding a home since moving to the Comox Valley eight years ago. They have been staying at a campground in the Cape Lazo area, which includes several people who live their full-time. The site is good for families, she says, and offers a sense of a community, but it’s not a permanent home.
“It feels a bit too transient,” she said.
When she saw the callout for families to apply, she decided to respond and is now excited by having something more permanent. At the same time, Habitat’s projects bring a sense of community with them, from the teams of staff and volunteers working on the homes as well as among the residents once families start to move in.
“It seems like a really supportive community to live in,” she said.