Michigan’s ‘Habitat’ affiliate of the year pushes forward

Progress 2022

Becky Johnson and her children Payton Linder, left, and Noah Johnson attend a groundbreaking for their Habitat for Humanity house in Kingsford. The three-bedroom, 1,190 square-foot house will be built this summer on East Sagola Avenue. Construction was first scheduled in 2020 but was delayed by COVID-19 and increased construction material costs. It will be the 50th house built by Habitat for Humanity Menominee River. (Marguerite Lanthier/Daily News photo)

KINGSFORD — After coming off a couple of tough years due to COVID-19, Habitat for Humanity Menominee River is looking forward to returning to some normalcy.

One of the big projects was reaching its 50th house. The three-bedroom, 1,190 square-foot home is being constructed on Sagola Street in Kingsford and is expected to be completed by next spring, said Kathy Kulas, a volunteer in charge of fund development.

The last home they built was three-fourths completed going into 2020 when the pandemic shut everything down. They finished the house that summer and sold it in November, but it was too late to start another house because of winter.

In 2021, the price of building materials surged, but they decided to “bite the bullet” and start on a house anyway, but then Habitat’s construction manager died.

“It’s not that we don’t want to build houses — it’s just the timing was bad the last couple of years,” Kulas said.

From left volunteers Danny Hemminger, Tyler Jones, Chuck Gibson and Andy Vandenbush work on the basement of the new house.

The basement has been dug on the new house and they will be completing the foundation soon.

“Our core crew has been working hard to get it ready,” said Nancy Pellegrini, Habitat director.

“We are excited to welcome a group from the First Presbyterian Church in Hastings, Mich., the week of July 11, who will transform our 50th house from a foundation to a house. In one week they will put up the walls and the roof,” Pellegrini said.

Kulas explained that the group has been coming to the U.P. to work on Habitat homes for the past 30 years. The past 12 years, they have gone to Marquette, but Marquette wanted the group to come at a different time. The group likes to come up each year at a specific time and they plan their vacations around that time, so they were looking at other Habitat homes to work on.

Kulas said they were very thankful the group chose to help them.

John Orttenburger of BOSS Snowplow assists Nancy Pellegrini, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Menominee River, as they ready siding. A group of BOSS employees volunteered to help replace siding on a house as part of a repair project by Habitat. BOSS has named Habitat as its Giving Project for the year.

“There are four people in our core group, so we could really use them. We subcontract out for the roofs because our guys don’t go up on the roofs. If they can give us that jump start, it really helps our core crew,” Kulas said. The core crew, a group of retired people, work Mondays and Wednesdays.

This year Habitat has also been selected to be part of BOSS Snowplow’s Giving Project. Employees from BOSS spent two days helping on a home repair, in this case installing siding.

BOSS is also donating $5,000 and they have been working to raise more money. They conducted two fundraisers at Solberg’s Greenleaf Sports Bar & Grill in Iron Mountain, where a portion of sales were donated to Habitat and there are also raffles and silent auctions. If enough people volunteer, Habitat can also receive money from the Toro Foundation.

The annual women’s build will also be different this year. Lowe’s, which sponsored the women’s build, used to donate and provide T-shirts for the event, but now they donate money and only if the group is selected. Since the Kingsford affiliate wasn’t selected, they plan to have their own women’s build later this year and they purchased their own T-shirts.

Home repairs will continue to be a main focus of the local affiliate. They have about 25 to 30 repair projects planned for the year and several have been completed, including a bathroom remodel, two wheelchair ramps, installing steps and railings, two roofs, a water heater replacement and a furnace replacement.

“We focus more on repairs because we could not do houses for the last couple of years,” Kulas said.

Because of the work there were able to accomplish, they were awarded Michigan’s Affiliate of the Year Award in 2021. According to Kulas, they also received the award in 2010.

“There are a lot of bigger affiliates in Michigan. Up here, the biggest one is Marquette and they’re still considered intermediate size. You are going against the whole body of work you do in the whole year, so it’s very hard for a small affiliate to compete against that,” she said.

But with their small group of dedicated employees and volunteers they will continue to try.

“If you want to help with any of our builds, please contact the office,” Pellegrini said. Their phone number is 906-779-5377.


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