Half-a-dozen houses under construction
By Ann McCreary
A volunteer crew of three couples from Marysville United Methodist Church wrapped up a week of work on Sunday (June 21), helping rebuild a home on Balky Hill Road that was destroyed in the Carlton Complex Fire.
They are the latest crew of volunteers to work on the house, which is one of a half-dozen homes in various stages of construction as part of a rebuilding campaign organized by the Carlton Complex Long Term Recovery Group (CCLTRG).
The crew from Marysville finished a deck, roughed-in plumbing under the house, painted siding and trimmed windows.
“It’s faith in action,” said Joy Stokes, who owns a cabin in Mazama with her husband, Scott. She said they were staying at the cabin during the fires last summer, and are glad to return as volunteers to help build homes.
“You just know you’re giving to people who are hurting. And it’s a fun way to spend time with people,” Stokes said.
With a continual flow of volunteers coming to help with the rebuilding in the Methow Valley, Pateros, Brewster and the Chiliwist, “one of our biggest challenges is finding housing,” said Kathy Power, volunteer coordinator for the
CCLTRG. So far, a variety of churches, rental homes, motels and RV sites have provided housing for the volunteers.
Some volunteers are coming for periods of a few days or a week, while others are committed to a longer stay, Power said. Many are affiliated with churches or religious organizations.
Robert and Sally Unrau, from Idaho, are staying for seven weeks to lead volunteer teams from Mennonite Disaster Services that will be arriving throughout the summer and fall. At the end of seven weeks the Unraus will be replaced by another lead couple to provide continuity to the volunteer effort.
“It’s how we’ve chosen to spend our retirement years,” Sally Unrau said. “Plus, my husband and I are from Idaho, so we are very aware of wildfires and the devastation they can cause. We understand that the losses can be overwhelming and that, until you have a home again, it’s very hard to put a life back together.”
Rebuilding in phases
The rebuilding program is being done in phases, with construction of 11 homes identified as Phase One. Foundations for four homes were poured in April by volunteers from Western Anabaptist Mission Services (WAMS). Volunteers from WAMS returned to do framing, roofing and drying-in work.
Throughout June, 50 Mennonite Disaster Services volunteers are working on interiors on two Phase One homes, while Christian Public Service, another Mennonite group, has sent a six-person team of skilled builders to assist in a variety of construction projects, said Leslee Goodman, communications coordinator for the CCLTRG. The Christian Public Service team is renting a home in Pateros through December.
The North Creek Presbyterian Church in Mill Creek, Washington, has been framing two homes in Mill Creek and transporting them and assembling them at sites in Pateros and on Jason Lucas Road near the town of Methow. Volunteers from the Puyallup Methodist Church also came to work this month.
In addition to the faith-based groups, a team of eight AmeriCorps volunteers is working throughout the fire-impacted area to repair fences, assist in site clean-up, tip walls, paint and perform other work. They were on site, helping with clean-up and repairs, at some of the homes damaged by floods at the end of May. The AmeriCorps volunteers will stay through the middle of July.
CCLTRG plans to rebuild homes for 40 fire survivors who were uninsured or underinsured. To qualify for the assistance, homeowners had to meet criteria including having clear title to the property, contributing their own resources to the home construction, and committing to live in their new home as their primary residence for five years.
CCLTRG has launched a $4.3 million campaign to raise $3.6 million needed to buy materials for the 40 homes. The remaining $700,000 to be raised will employ three disaster case managers through the end of December 2016 and pay temporary staff and operational costs for the recovery organization.
The group has already raised about $1.6 million, Goodman said. A donation of $250,000 has been pledged by the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Other donors include North Creek Presbyterian Church, Mennonite Disaster Services, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, Room One, Community Foundation of North Central Washington, Carlton Complex Assistance Network, Okanogan County Community Action Council, Chelan Hope, Pateros Fire Relief Fund and Pateros Community Church.
Goodman said several large gifts have been given by anonymous donors, and other funds have come from used clothing sales and thousands of individual donations gathered by local and regional fire relief groups.