Habitat groups merge: one group serves three counties

The region’s Habitat for Humanity groups are merging into one Gorge-wide organization, following the hand-up-not-hand-out philosophy of the global organization.

On July 1, The Dalles Area and Mid-Columbia Habitat for Humanity affiliates merged to become Columbia Gorge Habitat for Humanity. The Dalles Area previously covered housing for Wasco County, while Mid-Columbia worked in Hood River and Klickitat counties.

“Habitat for Humanity gives families living in substandard housing the opportunity to purchase a house and learn how to become homeowners through their own sweat equity,” said Board President Chip Wood. “Habitat is a win-win for families and our community. We’ve added about $3 million in property value and our Habitat families pay $37,000 in property taxes. The families learn by doing and they value what they’ve earned.”

The organization will be celebrating the merger with four events in Lyle and The Dalles on Saturday, Aug. 2.

The merger will mean a higher level of capability, added Roger Holen, the combined board vice chair, formerly Mid-Columbia Habitat’s president.

“The economy of scale allowed us to hire a part-time executive director, thus enabling us to serve our communities better,” Holen said.

Kayleen Warner will serve in that capacity. Corliss Marsh, former The Dalles Area volunteer executive director will continue to provide some of those organizational functions, Marsh said, so Warner’s addition will provide more time to focus on big-picture issues like recruiting volunteers, fundraising, writing grants and marketing.

“When I start talking about Habitat, tears come to my eyes,” Warner said. “I’m just overjoyed to help people continue to support Habitat’s mission of everyone in the world having a decent place to live.”

Work is under way on the newly combined organization’s 24th and 25th homes, one in Lyle and one in The Dalles. A total of five home sites in the Wilson Street Subdivision, where the foundation and subfloor are already in place on one home, are being purchased. Three are being purchased with help from a Meyer Memorial Trust grant.

Even before the official partnership, the two groups worked together. The four-lot site where Lyle’s newest home is going up was purchased jointly by the two organizations, Marsh said. The seller required purchase of all four lots, which was beyond the Mid-Columbia group’s financial capacity, so The Dalles Area purchased two. Mid-Columbia built houses on its two lots, then purchased another from The Dalles for the third house. The fourth will be developed by the combined group.

Since purchasing building lots in Hood River has been a challenge due to the county’s high land values, Habitat is instead considering ways of improving the condition of some of its existing housing stock.

While the program hasn’t yet been rolled out, it will be patterned on Habitat International’s Brush with Kindness program, Warner said.

The program provides exterior revitalization for selected houses.

“We’ve been so focused on building that we really didn’t have time to do rehab,” Marsh said.

“Monday, the board approved a new Brush with Kindness operating committee,” Warner said. “We’ll be meeting to see how we can expand the program. It’s really exciting.”

Columbia Gorge Habitat’s existing homes are located in The Dalles, Lyle, Odell and White Salmon. Marsh estimates that an average of three live in each of the existing 23 Habitat homes, providing housing for more than 60 adults and children.

The organization may also have the potential to develop housing in Cascade Locks, Warner said.

She invites the public to consider volunteering and contributing to Habitat for Humanity.

“We can customize volunteer opportunities for the skills and interests of the volunteer,” Warner said. Examples of volunteer needs include help stocking shelves and working with customers at the ReStore, office functions, marketing, web assistance and more.

“Even things as simple as bringing snacks to the building crews,” she said.

For more information about Columbia Gorge Habitat for Humanity, call 541-296-8817 or email Columbia gorgehfhed@gmail.com.


Here is the schedule for today’s ceremony at 1301 E. 12th Street, The Dalles

  • 10 a.m. — Welcome and Opening Remarks, Chip Wood; Mid-Columbia’s Roger Holen
  • 10:10 a.m. — Joining Ceremony
  • 10:15 a.m. — Habitat In Our Community, Mayor Steve Lawrence
  • 10:20 a.m. — “What Habitat Means to Me”, Janeal Booren
  • 10:30 a.m. — Special acknowledgments, Chip Wood, Jim and Lucille Torgenson.

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