Habitat for Humanity of Flathead Valley has been partnering with hardworking local families who need adequate housing and have the ability to repay a 30-year interest-free mortgage since 1989. But Habitat does more than build safe, decent and affordable homes for Flathead Valley families – it also gives those families the opportunity to thrive.
Summer Gustafson and her four children – Alexis, 14, Cayleb, 13, Austin, 11, and Kiersten, 8 – moved into their new Habitat home a year ago. After working for six years with Families in Partnership Early Head Start program in Libby, Summer moved her family to Flathead County.
She hoped for better educational opportunities for her children. However, the lack of affordable housing in the valley threatened Summer’s ability to improve her family’s circumstances.
“When I moved to the Flathead Valley, I could not find anything,” said Summer Gustafson. “There were no affordable options and subsidized housing had a waiting list of up to three years. The only affordable place I could find in the Flathead Valley was 75 miles west of Columbia Falls,” she said.
Summer said that the news of her family’s selection into the Habitat program set everything in motion. “I thought if I am going to be a homeowner, I am going to college and I am going to be involved in my community as much as possible.” Summer is now pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education so that she can fulfill her goal of working as a parent educator and tutor for the Columbia Falls school district.
For Habitat families, home ownership means stability for the family and an opportunity to contribute to a permanent community. Summer explained that she feels a new incentive to develop meaningful connections with her neighbors.
“You can give more to the community when your spirit is elevated. You feel like you want to reach out, you’re no longer discouraged or ashamed,” she said. “I would like to share my appreciation for the volunteers. It is an emotionally overwhelming experience to go to the site and see people taking time out of their day to help. It is amazing, and it empowers me to give back more to my community.”
Inspired by Summer’s story and the stories of more than 40 other Flathead Valley Habitat families, Habitat for Humanity is asking the Flathead Valley community to join with them for the holiday season in their “Give Back Your Thanks” volunteer campaign. You can learn more about volunteer opportunities by contacting the Habitat office at 406-257-8850.
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