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Style Magazine

Pay it Forward

Jun 30, 2010 11:51AM ● By Style

Photo by Dante Fontana

The El Dorado County Habitat for Humanity builds homes for the homeless, but it isn’t about giving a handout – it’s about giving a hand up.

That’s according to Executive Director Candy Alexander, who says that since April 17, 1996, five houses have been built for low-income families in the community. “Our families must qualify as low-income individuals,” Alexander says. “They must pay for their home, and they must put in 500 ‘sweat equity’ hours.”

Those “sweat equity” hours involve family members actually picking up hammers and helping to frame the home in which they will reside. If they are physically unable to do the work, friends or relatives can pitch in and help with the hours. Alexander says putting their own sweat into the work helps them appreciate the home and gives them a greater attachment to it. “We believe in helping people help themselves,” Alexander says. “We don’t feel giving away a house helps anyone.”

So how do low-income families afford the houses they help build? “Basically, we take what they can afford,” Alexander explains. “If they can afford a $500- or $600-per-month payment and pay their own taxes and insurance, then it works out to a 30- to 40-year loan. We keep the mortgage, and as we collect the payments, we use them to build the next home.”

Revenue sources for the El Dorado County Habitat for Humanity are diverse. Private donations, corporate donations, and grants are some of the typical fundraising methods any nonprofit uses, and the organization employs all three. In addition, the group owns a thrift store located at 6168 Pleasant Valley Road in El Dorado, and it stocks new and used construction equipment and building materials, among other items. The larger fundraising events, however, are coming up soon. There will be a rib cook-off August 21, at Burke’s Junction, called the “Hoe-Down for Habitat.” This is the inaugural event in what is planned to be a yearly fundraiser.

“We’re going to bring in 10 big rib companies,” Alexander says. “People can taste the ribs and listen to country music played by live bands. The whole community is invited. There will be raffles, people thrown in (fake) jails, fun and games, and Western shootouts.” On October 21, the third annual poker tournament fundraiser will take place, and this year it’s pirate-themed. Texas Hold ‘em is the game, and dinner will be provided.

In the end, it’s all about helping families get into homes and stay in them. In addition to building homes, Habitat for Humanity helps maintain them through programs like Brush with Kindness, in which volunteers paint houses and clean up the yards for families living in houses constructed by the organization.

Alexander asserts that what she likes most is seeing the families moving in and integrating into the community. “It’s just unbelievable,” she says. “These people are usually just living in a run-down apartment, if they’re living anywhere at all. The new home gives them stability and they’ve got a home they’ve put their hearts into. Many have a tendency to come back and volunteer with us. It’s a pay-it-forward type of situation.”

For more information about El Dorado Habitat for Humanity, visit