Meet the New Habitat Area Director Kelle Vandenberg

Kelle Dvorak Vandenberg has spent most of her professional career combining business development, economic growth and non-profit work with volunteerism. As a former Vice President of a multi-million-dollar corporation, this marketing and development executive has had the privilege for the last 16+ years to work for a company where her leadership was able to drive change. She also created an environment of shared success and vision, with fiscal responsibility, open communication and targeted growth.

Kelle Vandenberg, Area Director

While balancing her corporate career, she was afforded the opportunity to serve on  an international non-profit organization. As Executive Vice President of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, Global, she led the development branch whose goal was to recruit and sustain donors; give a platform for women to voice their specific needs and help build a community of people willing to share their skills and teach others. She has traveled the world, speaking publicly and meeting people within the global coffee community who, despite their daily struggles for clean water or the devastating effects of climate change, manage to laugh infectiously in the face of adversity.

An active CWU graduate, she moved her family from Ellensburg to the Bothell, WA area in 2003 but had always planned to return, as both she and her husband have strong family ties to the region. Since coming home in July of 2019, Kelle volunteers on the Ellensburg Community Radio board, the Economic Vitality Committee for the EDA, the Valley Musical Theatre board and has participated in the Our Voices of Kittitas County, an organization developed to plan and celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote. She is eager to join the Habitat for Humanity organization and bring her passion and commitment for helping people to the valley she calls home. 

“What I find most compelling about the Habitat for Humanity organization, is that it breaks down social-economic barriers, bringing people together to strengthen, invest in and rebuild their communities. In today’s world, we need the hope that Habitat represents; we need to find reasons to come together and rebuild our communities.”  

Understanding Affordable Housing: A Q&A With Melissa Bergren

Within small communities you will find a plethora of people wanting to make a difference in the lives of their friends, family members, neighbors and community acquaintances. For some this is accomplished through volunteering, supporting local non-profits or providing services to those in need. Melissa Bergren, Ellensburg resident and Mortgage Loan Officer for Academy Mortgage Corporation, has taken on all of these roles and more. 

If you want to learn more about how Bergren has impacted Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity during her time in Ellensburg, please enjoy the following video Q&A. 

Meet House #17 Homeowners: The Haysom Family

Every Habitat homeowner has a unique story to share with their community about the experience of working with this global non-profit. For the Haysom family, Habitat has made a major impact on their quality of life and stability through affordable housing.

But, how did they learn about the opportunities in store? “My neighbor in Ellensburg told me about Habitat. She told me she didn’t qualify, but it was something she really thought we should consider looking into,” says Katie Haysom, Habitat homeowner and Kittitas County resident.

She adds, “I didn’t understand; why? Why does this company do this work? Why build houses for families? It all sounded too good to be true.” A non-profit that helps community members find and build affordable homes may seem impossible but since the foundation of Habitat for Humanity in 1976 this has been a reality across the globe.

Navigating the Building Process

Once the Haysom family was approved for the process of building their forever home they no longer had to worry about their future living conditions. Haysom explains, “We were living in an apartment that had bad mold. It was difficult living there on so many levels, mainly mental [and] emotional. I also didn’t always feel safe there.”

But, the process of building a safer family home does not mean that the homeowners can sit back and relax. There are a lot of steps that occur in order to build each home and the process of sweat-equity means that the homeowners must put in hours working with the organization.

For Haysom, this was one of the most enjoyable aspects of working to build her new home. She explains, “Personally, I had fun talking to people about Habitat and advocating for the company. I had so much fun meeting so many amazing people from around the community.”

Haysom adds that working at events and builds with past Habitat employees allowed her family to be together and learn from local leaders. “There were also the volunteers from so many different companies and organizations,” she adds. “I love seeing the signatures of love and well wishes from the volunteers from around the world.”

Everyone involved with this build made an impact on the Haysom family. “In short, I feel like I got more out of it by meeting so many beautiful, amazing souls through their volunteering on our home. I still think about them often,” Haysom finalizes.

Looking to the Future

Now that the Haysom family has a stable living environment there are many new benefits to being homeowners. “There are the typical physical blessings of a home, but I see many other benefits that might still be unknown,” she says. “I worry less (well, slightly less) about the well-being of our kids. I feel as though our kids are very safe and lucky to live here.” 

Safety and peace of mind are two important factors to providing a reliable home for a family. “I personally feel calmer and at peace here at home. Our kids are thriving. We all feel more secure. And we feel like we can actually plan for the long-term,” adds Haysom.

Also, being able to grow closer to family is one of the positive results of the home building process. Haysom explains, “Jeremy and I have really bonded over our joint experiences, like in the garden or when we put in our fence. We’ve really bonded as a family. We’re thinking about our future more and less about our immediate needs.”

One of the ways the Haysom family has settled into their new home is by finding a routine and enjoyment in community activities. From her husband Jeremy Haysom receiving his EMT certification to her kids playing sports, she explains that these are some of the impacts having a home has made on their lives. 

Haysom adds, “I’ve made some great friends, and I was able to start back at school at CWU, double majoring [in] Spanish and Elementary Education. This last Spring 2020 quarter, I earned a 4.0 GPA.” Since this time, Haysom explains that she has also received a WWIN scholarship for her hard work and determination at Central.

Being homeowners is not an easy task but for many families it is worth the effort. “Homeownership means every ounce of blood, sweat and tears along the way,” she explains. “The love of homeownership is in every fiber of my being. It gives me great joy to be responsible for my surroundings, from mowing the lawn all the way down to the septic system!”

With each new Habitat family there are many individuals across the globe experiencing the same joy as this family has. Haysom finalizes, “I wish that we could build [10] Habitat for Humanity homes per year in our county! It has truly changed everything for our family and me especially. Donate, volunteer and support your local Habitat.”

Finding Her Style: Visiting the Clothing Section w/ Wecho Barnes

What do you look for in a consignment store? For some, this could be donating to a worthy cause, agreeing with an organization’s mission statement, finding unique trinkets or even meeting other customers. 

Everyone has their specific need when entering the Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity Store. For many, this includes being able to donate and shop for clothing items.

According to Cashier Wecho Barnes, “We started the clothing part of the Store in September of 2017 because we noticed how many people wanted to donate clothing, so when the office relocated, we used that space to make the clothing section.” 

As a non-profit organization, it is important to meet the needs and demands of the community, both in the Store and in other programs. After this section was developed by Barnes and other staff members, she explains she began to work primarily in this section while also helping in the houseware area when needed.

“My favorite section in the Store is definitely the clothing section because I’m always adding cool finds to my ever-growing wardrobe.” There are so many items constantly entering the shelves that even Habitat employees such as Barnes can’t help but join in on the shopping.

She adds, “I’m always seeing nice donations come in; my personal favorite clothing find I [have] bought is an extra-large, long-sleeve, button-up shirt with different animal tracks on it. My favorite accessory I bought is a beautiful pair of long feather earrings.”

There are always a variety of items that grace the shelves of the Habitat Store — even some designer labels. “[Over] the years, we’ve seen lots of cool things — vintage clothes and toys and sometimes jewelry. We sometimes get brand new items, as well as name brand items,” says Barnes.

The Habitat Store is a major success not only for the organization but also for the community. Each employee has the opportunity to provide for others and uphold Habitat’s mission to provide the people of Kittitas County with affordable housing, everyday. 

“My favorite part of working at Habitat is how accomplished I feel at the end of the day,” explains Barnes. “A hard day’s work for me — pricing and selling donations — is a step closer to getting a family into a home they can afford and call their own.”

Every donation and purchase from the Habitat clothing section (among others) is a step closer to continuing to provide adequate shelter and resources for the community. Barnes finalizes, “The amazing part of having the clothing section is now we have a place for people to shop for affordable clothing in our community!”

To visit our clothing section, head to 212 S. Railroad Avenue, Ellensburg, WA 98926.

Q&A w/ Tammy Tyler, Habitat Bookkeeper

Q: How long have you worked for Habitat for Humanity? 

A: I have worked for Habitat for Humanity for a year. 

Q: Why did you start working for Habitat? 

A: I was completing my AAS in Administrative Assistant and had inquired about an office internship I needed to complete before graduating. Habitat already had an intern, but was seeking to fill their paid bookkeeping position. I thought the position would be perfect for me and my goal was to work in a human resource department doing payroll or accounts payable / receivable. I immediately applied, had an interview soon after, and was offered the job a couple days later. 

Q: What is your favorite part of working for a non-profit? Why? 

A: It is rewarding to be able to help people with either resources or achieving the dream of owning a home. I remember giving the keys to the homeowner of the last house we built. She was so excited and happy that she had a place to call home. 

Q: Is this the first non-profit you’ve worked for? 

A: Yes 

Q: What does your day-to-day at Habitat look like? 

A: My day always starts with checking the mail, checking emails, and checking voicemails. Throughout the day I answer the phone, return emails, and help anyone who comes into the office. Other duties I may do throughout the day include: processing invoices, paying bills, making bank deposits, tracking donations, creating board reports, ordering supplies, entering store sales, paying taxes, processing payroll, reconciling bank accounts, and any other thing that comes to my desk. 

Q: What does it mean to be a bookkeeper? 

A: Being a bookkeeper requires basic knowledge of accounting. Unlike larger corporations, who have a person designated to accounts receivable or accounts payable or payroll, a bookkeeper does all of the record keeping of the finances. 

Q: What are your hobbies outside of work? 

A: I don’t really have any hobbies. I do like to read a good book, cook, and care for the wild and stray animals around the property. My favorite thing is to visit my boys in Spokane, WA.