For McMinnville Habitat for Humanity director Katie Curry, there’s no doubt about it: a home dedication is the best part of the job. She says, “The dedication ceremony reminds us why we do what we do. Whatever challenges pop up along the way, they can’t compare to seeing a family become homeowners. It’s lifechanging for them, and for us as well.” Katie adds, “A dedication brings us full circle, from selecting the family, to the golden shovel groundbreaking, to handing over the keys. It’s the capstone of the process.”
Photographer and volunteer Adrian Chitty agrees – sort of. “A dedication is a little different for me,” he says then adds with a smile, “I’m always working.” Indeed, he is, documenting the ceremony and the participants’ reactions with his camera, and is one of our regular construction volunteers. But Adrian has a deeper point as well. “The dedication is a moment in time, and as lovely as that is, for me the significance comes later. Weeks beyond the ceremony – months later – when I walk through the neighborhood and see friends chatting over the fence or kids playing with one another, that’s the long-term benefit. A dedication isn’t just about homeownership, it’s about building community. You could say it’s the difference between a wedding and a marriage.”
This latest project was the first Katie has overseen start to finish, but she says headline sponsor, Willamette Valley Wineries Association, made it easier than might be expected. Number one was WVWA’s very important financial assistance. “Fund raising was much less difficult with their help. But beyond that, they also supported us with their labor, volunteering many hours on the Gonzalez home.”
Although the Gonzalez home may be the first Katie has completely overseen, that doesn’t mean she tackled the project without experience. Katie transitioned with the help of former director Mary Stern and had encountered much already. For example, MacHabitat dealt with soaring lumber prices on the previous home. “Lumber costs for that one were up 200%,” she says. “Thankfully they have come down a bit, but certainly not to the level of three or four years ago.”
Were there other challenges this time around?
Katie gives a rueful smile. “Well, there was the small matter of beds, in that there weren’t any. This family needed beds for three of their children, so we ordered beds and the order was confirmed. But for whatever reason, the company didn’t come through. In desperation I called Encore Home Furnishings and thankfully they stepped up like heroes. They saved the day.”
She goes on to say, “No two builds or ceremonies are identical, but this dedication was different in a few ways. It was the first one since not having to follow COVID protocols, and it also didn’t involve handing over the keys.” During the build the Gonzalezes added to their numbers by one. They had a baby, and needed to occupy the home before the ceremonial handover. Nevertheless, representatives from the various elements of Habitat – construction crew volunteers, Board members, donors, and staff did get to present the traditional gifts.
The traditional homeowner gifts and their significance are:
- Bread – that your home will never know bare shelves.
- Salt – that you will always have spice in your life.
- Sugar – that your family will always know sweetness even in tough times.
- Candle – that light will always shine on you.
- Plants – that your roots will grow strong and spread deeply in our community.
The family was also given blankets for the children, handmade by parishioners at First Presbyterian Church – McMinnville, and the parents were also given a Pendleton blanket from home sponsors Willamette Valley Wineries Association – which was the blanket used as a fundraiser to help build the home.
Earlier, Adrian mentioned the lasting effect homeownership has on individuals and community. What does that mean for him personally?
“I was completely sucked in by this project,” he says, “blessed to be part of both the documenting blog and the actual construction. Heck, I built a house! That’s not something everyone can say. But more than that, I’ve made friends along the way. The neighbors, the crew. I’ll keep showing up to build and to photograph. I’m part of the team, and the community.”
So the dedication may have been slightly unusual, but the Gonzalez family is in their home, and the aptly named Aspire Community grows. The wedding is concluded, let the marriage begin.