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Habitat Home Is Happening In Brainerd

There’s no place like home -- just ask anyone who doesn’t own a house or is forced to reside in a dwelling not fit to live in. Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity began construction Monday, June 10, of a two-bedroom, one-bathroom single-story 938-square-foot home at 1007 Ninth Ave. NE in northeast Brainerd. “This is day one of our home build for Deb Kowalzek and her son Brady,” said Ruth Ann Veith, development director of the nonprofit. “It’s kind of a unique partnership with Lakewood Evangelical Free Church and Wells Fargo.” Wells Fargo awarded the nonprofit $15,000 for the 21-day build, which will include volunteers from Lakewood Evangelical Free Church in Baxter helping with the new home’s construction overseen by Dan Veith and Ken Nornberg, who once owned construction companies. “Lakewood had approached us a while back. They wanted to do it as part of their outreach ministry,” Veith said. “They had partnered with Habitat, I think, four years ago on another home, so they wanted to do that again and engaged their congregation to help with the build.” Veith said Kowalzek and her son left an unhealthy situation a few years ago for their own safety, but finding decent, affordable housing as a single mom was challenging. Kowalzek attempted to get help through public assistance, but was told she made too much money to qualify so the only place she could afford to live in was a basement of an old home with ceilings about 6 feet high, according to Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity officials. “Every time it rains, they have standing water covering their basement apartment. There are holes in the walls and doors and only one small window in their apartment. Deb’s bed is the couch in the kitchen/living room. They are continually sick because of the mold and mildew.” For more than a quarter of a century, Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity volunteers have built 110 homes in Cass, Crow Wing and Hubbard counties, and the city of Staples, according to officials. “The way the process works -- once families turn in their applications -- there’s some criteria first that’s looked at to see if they are actually ready to be a homeowner, so financially they have to be ready,” Veith said. “Sometimes families come in and they’ve got too much debt and are not quite ready, so we’ll tell them no, but we work with them a year, help them get their debt down, get a budget and then they come back and reapply.”