It was just about the perfect summer evening in the park. Horses in the distance and the soft light of a warm summer evening set the stage for our first ever Meet Your Neighbor Picnic, to celebrate our first six families selected for Phase I of our Stuart Meadows 18-home affordable housing community.
With the families starting to arrive, bringing a dish to share and eat family style together, the Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity team had tables set, the grill going and were serving up hamburgers, hot dogs, and even vegan options for any who would prefer.
KC Habitat had set up games throughout the picnic area and had a piñata at the ready, the evening was an old-fashion neighborhood picnic in the park, and simply fun. It was a good reminder to make time to do this more often. Children of all ages tested out the games, played in the playground and one child stated, “I cannot wait to meet all my new neighbors and make new friends to grow up with.”
The importance of their statement rings true, as these families will be building their new homes together, side-by-side for the next year until complete. They will help each other, learn from each other, and truly come to care for their neighbor. It is part of the Habitat way. As staff person Emily Freeborn said, “This is the human in Habitat for Humanity, this is why we are here.”
Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity believes bringing a community together is essential, especially when building your home alongside your future neighbors. It is empowering to not only be able to help build your own home, but what that home represents for the future for many of these families; security, peace of mind, and a safe place to be able to dream. As the piñata was shredded and eager children chased after scattered candy, two moms were standing side-by-side, leaning into each other; new friends and new neighbors for all.
Ronnie has been a long-haul truck driver his whole life, supporting his family and raising a daughter. In 2012, he returned to his roots in Ellensburg to obtain much needed back surgery…alone. He bought a used motor home in the Shady Acres mobile home park and has lived there for 14 years, and he kept driving until 2020 when a heart attack incapacitated him. When he learned the Shady Acres would shut down in December 2022, Ronnie feared he might be homeless.
Because he dreamed of owning a home, Ronnie had been applying to Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity for housing since 2016. He is a frequent visitor to the Habitat Store and tries to stay in touch with the organization. When it was announced that land had been secured for Stuart Meadows, Habitat staff paid a visit to Shady Acres to inform its residents. Ronnie applied immediately, qualified and was accepted.
“I am so excited! This has been a dream come true,” Ronnie declares. “All my life I’ve wanted to own a home. This is a life changing moment for me.”
Ronnie will be among the first to move into a Stuart Meadows home, and he’s grateful. To other seniors who might consider applying for a Habitat home, Ronnie says “Give it a chance. The process was easy and informative. You’re guided very clearly on what you need to do.”
When fully complete in 2025, Stuart Meadows will consist of 18 new homes serving a range of household sizes and those making less than 80% average median income (AMI), with three of the homes reserved for those making 60% AMI or less. Each of the 18 units will offer three bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, allowing for flexibility in buyer needs for multi-generational families, couples, as well as accommodating small and large families.
As for Ronnie, he’s looking forward to feeling secure in his own home, with his own space and room for a garden.
“I am very grateful to know I will be living in a clean and safe community and having a Habitat home will give me this sense of security. I want to thank all the people involved, especially Jessica Jorgensen, who helped me get to this point, Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas Counties, the City of Ellensburg and the contractors. Thank you so much for this opportunity!”