Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, July 20, 2001

Carpenters work on the roof of Debra Keola's home in
Waimanalo, built by Habitat for Humanity.

Waimanalo family’s
dream takes shape as walls
and a roof are built

Editor's note: We reported the groundbreaking on Debra Keola's Habitat for Humanity home on May 12. We're monitoring progress on the home and will run updates as the project nears completion.

By Burl Burlingame

Where once a scrubby lot stood in Waimanalo, you now can hear the rain whisper on the roof. The floor, framework, joists, rafters and shingles are assembled for Debra Keola's Habitat for Humanity house, under construction every weekend.

"It's beginning," marveled Keola, "to look like a home."

The house is open framework at the moment. The roof is critical because it keeps the work underneath dry, and beyond that, it means the assemblage is now a shelter from the elements, which is the definition of a home.

Once the permits were approved, the utilities were laid and the foundations set. Then the floor was constructed. With so many hands -- volunteers show up every weekend -- the work goes fast.

"We're actually ahead of schedule a little bit," said Keola. "So many people come to help! It's surprising and wonderful."

Most of the labor is accomplished on weekends. Keola and family often putter on the structure during the week, doing things like painting primer.

It wasn't until the walls were framed out and erected that the structure began to look like a home. "It became real then," Keola said. "The pieces looked so big. But when you walk around inside, you realize it's a regular-size house. You really get an appreciation for all the labor and detail and skill that goes into making a house when you're in on it like this, seeing every step. It's exciting!"

At the current rate, project coordinators are predicting the primary work will be done by Labor Day.

More such homes will be built, thanks to a $1.4 million affordable-housing grant to Habitat for Humanity from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle. The sponsor was American Savings Bank.

Habitat for Humanity International has built more than 100,000 homes, qualifying it as the country's 15th-largest home builder. Thirty-four of these homes were built on Oahu, with four in progress, including the Waimanalo structure.

Last year, Honolulu Habitat for Humanity's board elected to take a more aggressive approach to their charity, operating it like a for-profit. The goal, according to Executive Director Jose Villa, is to break the cycle of poverty by having needy and affluent community members working together in equal partnership. Homeowners, once helped, become helpers themselves. The family contributes 500 hours of "sweat equity" as down payment.

Honolulu Habitat for Humanity's goal is to build 300 homes for low-income families on Oahu in five years.

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