Volunteers continue to work on the nine-unit, veterans-focused community in Pacific last Saturday. Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County and its partners are leading the effort. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Community comes together to build homes for veterans

Joe Mayo once worked on a Navy submarine.

Last Saturday, he helped others build a new neighborhood.

The veteran, an eager handyman and appreciative homeowner, joined about 50 volunteers in erecting a nine-unit, veterans-focused community on a sun-splashed day at Megan’s Meadow in Pacific.

Such an ongoing, outpouring of cooperation and work – no small task – nearly moved Mayo to tears.

“The VA (Veterans Administration) wanted me to do my own thing,” Mayo said of his long recovery from an illness he had from his military service. “This keeps me in the neighborhood, reconnecting with people and staying active.

“I’m looking forward to moving in here,” he said, glancing at his future home, nearly completed and tucked in the corner of the lot. “I’m kind of touched that people are doing this for me.”

Mayo is among the low-income military veterans and reservists who have qualified to live in the single-home dwellings, each averaging 1,100 square feet in size, with two-to-four bedrooms, private yards and features customized to fit the needs of the homeowner, disabled or not.

Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County (Habitat SKC) and sponsoring partners like Lowe’s Home Improvement have made the project possible. Anticipated to span 2½ years, construction of the small community will cost $2.2 million, approximately $246,727 per unit.

Habitat SKC offers homes for sale at affordable prices and mortgage terms and provides sponsorship opportunities on the units. Together with donated materials and teams of sponsors, selected families can help keep the cost of homes down by investing hours of their own “sweat equity” into the community’s construction.

Such a collaborative plan is unique and true to Habitat SKC’s mission.

“It’s beautiful,” Barbara Hobson said of the work party. Hobson, a veteran who was an Army reservist for eight years and today drives a King County Metro bus, will occupy one of the units when it’s finished. “I’m going to continue to do something like this to help others out.”

The project provides much-needed affordable housing for veterans who live in South King County.

Army veteran Maclovia Varner saw the opportunity to become a first-time homeowner through Habitat SKC. Varner, an FAA administrative officer, recently discovered she qualifies for a new home.

“I’m excited,” said Varner, part of the work crew that was laying down the foundation for her future home at Megan’s Meadow last Saturday. “It’s awesome. I like giving back to the community and for those who have a passion for (volunteer work).”

Three units have been built, three bear foundations and frames that should be finished later this year, and three more homes are scheduled for completion in 2018, said Andy Varyu, development director for Habitat SKC.

Moving the project along, Lowe’s workers volunteered their muscle to last Saturday’s effort– part of Habitat for Humanity’s 10th annual National Women Build Week, May 6-14.

Lowe’s helped launch National Women Build Week in 2008 to empower women to advocate for affordable housing and spotlight the home-ownership challenges many face. It invited women to devote at least one day to help families build decent and affordable housing in their local communities.

Lowe’s donated $2 million to Habitat’s 2017 National Women Build Week and will provide the support of Lowe’s Heroes employee volunteers to more than 300 Habitat locations hosting National Women Build Week activities this year.

Cheryl Antonelli, who works at the Lowe’s in Lakewood, welcomed the opportunity to be a part of the build.

“I’m actually having a lot of fun,” she said of learning new skills. “We’re doing something good for the community, and having us make a difference means something.”

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