Saturday | April 25, 2015
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Habitat volunteers Revitalize Kuhio Village

Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii volunteers will join three Waimea families later this month to spruce up their abodes at Kuhio Village, a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands development.

Executive Director Pat Hurney said Wednesday the nonprofit organization has selected three Kuhio Village families for its Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative that provides critical home repairs to families in need of decent, affordable housing. He said the homes, which were constructed between 1952 and 1976, have sustained leaking roofs that have caused water damage to walls and floors and other issues.

Slated for the three family homes are new roofs, floors and paint, as well as exterior and interior wall and handicap-accessibility upgrades, he said. Already, the organization has built one family home and painted nine others in the neighborhood.

“Our plan is to be in the village for three to four years working with neighbors and community organizations to provide not just a physical revitalization, but a whole community revitalization,” Hurney said. AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Erin Stephens will lead the effort, but was unable to be reached for comment as of press time Wednesday.

The initiative will be paid with $60,000 in public grant funds the organization has secured, Hurney said. He also noted that DHHL offers its beneficiaries home repair loans up to $50,000.

Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Information Specialist Kuuwei Hiriashi said the village comprises 121 households. She confirmed the loan program, but said the department urges beneficiaries to exhaust other funding opportunities prior to applying for a DHHL loan.

Hurney said the organization selected the DHHL development for the initiative after building a home for the Kama family, as well as painting nine homes there. He said the outpouring of thanks from neighbors in the area, as well as the condition of the homes prompted the initiative.

“We took a look around the neighborhood and saw more homes in need of repairs,” he said, noting neighbors, who come from a diverse range of backgrounds, also cooked food for the volunteers. “They were all saying ‘thank you.’”

The families, who must earn 80 percent of the area median income, will also provide sweat equity on their homes, working side-by-side with volunteers, Hurney said.

The amount of sweat equity is determined by the amount of work being done, Hurney said, adding in the case of an exterior paint job, the family often contributes eight hours of sweat equity.

“Sweat equity is one of Habitat for Humanity’s main principles,” he said. “People themselves help because it builds pride in ownership and helps to teach people how to take care of their house, too.”

With that in mind, Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii is seeking volunteers and donations for the initiative, Hurney said. Skilled volunteers, like those licensed in plumbing and electrical work, are especially sought since they can help reduce the cost of hiring for specialized positions.

Work could begin by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21, when the organization plans a “curb appeal project” at Kuhio Village if the organization can be ready by then. If not, the project will begin by month’s end, Hurney said.

Habitat for Humanity West Hawaii is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, which strives to provide families with decent, safe and affordable places to live.

In 2012, the local affiliate and volunteers built nine family homes — including five in 10 days during a Blitz Build in North Kona — and painted 10 others.

To volunteer or to make an in-kind donation, call Margo Takata at 331-8010. To donate, visit habitat westhawaii.org.