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.”

Rustic to Refurbished: How Alicia Stoeckl Revives Habitat Finds

Every customer at Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity has a different reason for entering the Store. Some are looking for holiday decorations while others want to scour the racks for the perfect vintage flannel. 

For Washington-native and HopeSource Finance Manager, Alicia Stoeckl, Habitat provides the perfect materials for her uniquely-designed home decor pieces. “I like to go to the Habitat Store about once a week just to see if anything new has come in,” she says.

Outlining the Process

The Store provides a variety of materials for Stoeckl’s wood building projects. She mentions that she has a specific process for choosing what pieces she will use to make the decor. “When looking for supplies for wood art, I look for two main things. I look for flat plywood pieces, any size or thickness will do,” she explains. “Then, I try and find ‘interesting’ long and thin pieces of wood to use in my designs.”

Yet, this is only one of the many steps she takes to create her distinctive pieces. Because each piece she makes uses different planks of wood, she summarizes that the process isn’t clear-cut. “I have drafts of designs I’d like to try, so I generally pick one, and start laying things out to see what it looks like. I’ll often adjust and change the design as I’m seeing the cuts play out.”

“Once I have something I like, I’ll stain, paint or use my torch to put some color on the wood, secure to my backing with glue and my nail gun and frame it out,” Stoeckl adds as her usual next steps in her process. 

Each decor piece is unique not only because of the process but also the time allotted to create the item. Stoeckl says that the quickest piece she’s ever created took around four to six hours total. However, she says, “It’s probably 15-40 hours depending on the size and complexity.”

Her Start With Building

How did Stoeckl get her start with building such creative works? She explains that she’s “been building since … high school. Mainly little things [she] needed around the house like shoe racks or tv stands.” This interest has since blossomed into a part-time passion project.

Stoeckl also discusses that she has a history of construction with Habitat. “I had the wonderful opportunity to spend three months working on a Habitat site in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina,” she adds. “The way this organization really gives back to communities and families is fantastic.”

To see more of her projects, and follow along with her building journey, check out Stoeckl’s Instagram page @stoeckl_pieces.