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December 22nd, 2008
Habitat for Humanity dedicates new house

San Marcos residents and others came together Saturday morning to dedicate a new home on Jackman Street built by Habitat for Humanity.

Pam Brown and her daughter were selected a year ago to receive the Habitat’s latest house, which took about six months for volunteers to build. Mayor Susan Narvaiz gave a brief speech in the packed living room of the 1,100 square foot home.

“This is a great legacy we are building upon here, and Habitat has done many great things in this community,” said Narvaiz. “We’re glorifying God in everything that we do here, and so we will prosper long, and long because of the work that we do here today.”

The dedication ceremony included a prayer and blessing led by Pastor Robin Steele of PromiseLand Church, of which the Browns are members. Suzanne White of the New Braunfels Area Quilt Guild, “on behalf of a lot of loving hands,” presented the Browns with a quilt made by Guild members. The Browns received a memory book compiled by Ken Moss showing every step of the construction process.

“I’d like to thank…all y’all for putting all y’all’s hard work and effort into helping me and Tyra to build a home, to have a home of our own,” said Brown. “(It’s) nothing but God’s grace and his grace upon us that we’re here today and celebrating this time.”

According to its San Marcos website, Habitat for Humanity,”is a Christian organization and welcomes volunteers from all faiths who are committed to Habitat’s goal of eliminating poverty Housing.”

After the ceremony, volunteers continued putting the finishing touches on the bathroom and kitchen as attendees mingled and enjoyed refreshments. Narvaiz said she helped put the framing up on the house.

“I was actually on the initial committee that founded the Habitat group here many years ago, so this is one of many houses that I’ve been involved with,” said Narvaiz.

Narviaz said making it easier for families to get homes “helps San Marcos greatly,” and said the lack of affordable housing for single parent families is a particular problem in the city. She said the city did not contribute funds to build the house.

“The way we support this is we waive the standard fees that (Habitat for Humanity) would pay for construction and permitting, and also (honor) our commitment to them when we have land that has been returned to the tax roles for whatever reason — we try to give those pieces of land as end fill, first rate to Habitat…so that’s the way the city can participate.”

San Marcos Habitat for Humanity Board Member Buck Scheib said more than 200 people worked on the house, putting in a total of 1,200 hours.

“(Our volunteers are) just from all backgrounds,” said Scheib. “The one thing that struck me is that they’re not selfish and they don’t want really any publicity for themselves. They just want to quietly work and they don’t want their picture in the paper or their name in the paper with it, they just want to work, and that really impressed me.”

Scheib said Texas State University students, some of whom were from the service sorority Chi Beta Delta, helped build the Browns’ home. He said Gary Winek, a professor from Texas State University and director of the school’s construction program, worked on the house.

San Marcos Habitat for Humanity Board Member Larry Brotzman worked on the Brown house as the construction supervisor. He said he has worked in the construction field for about 50 years, having started building houses at the age of about seven with his father.

Brotzman said the Brown house lot was on the tax roles until Habitat acquired it. With Habitat’s sale of the lot to Brown, the land is once again taxable by government.

“We sell this house at just about our cost as far as what we put into it, as far as labor — we don’t try to make a profit on it or anyting like that; mostly what we try to do is cover the cost of it so we can build the next one,” said Brotzman. “We finance the house at a no-interest loan, usually for 20 years. Of course, (the Browns) do pay their taxes and insurance along with it, but they’ll have a house payment on this house probably less than what they were paying for rent, simply because there’s no interest on (the mortgage).”

Brotzman said Habitat will continue to work with the Browns to help them with maintenance and “heavier problems.” He said Sears donated the microwave and Whirlpool donated the stove and the refrigerator.

“Any builder in Texas now has to cover the house with a 10 year warranty, which we have,” said Brotzman. “So if anything goes wrong structurally with the house, anything like that, we take care of it. All the appliances are covered with the normal factory warranties and installer warranties and things like that.”

Before the Brown house, San Marcos Habitat for Humanity built a house on Belvin Street, where five more lots will be developed after the organization completes its next house, which will be built on Mill Street.

“The last house that we built, Pam worked on that house,” said Brotzman. “She’s probably got as many hours in this house as anybody. She’s always over here helping; she helped frame it, she helped put siding on, she helped put roofing on. Not too many people can say they helped build their own house.”

Brotzman said he hopes to bring in private contractors on future projects to do work during the week, as volunteers mostly work on Saturdays.

“We’ve been working just one house a year but we’re trying to ramp up to where we get two houses a year.”

Brotzman said construction on the Brown house went smoothly except for incidents that included theft of materials and a mistake resulting in the reinstallation of a wall of siding.

“We never lost a stick of lumber or anything on the house on Belvin Street, said Brotzman. “When we started this house, we laid the beams out around this side over here. They’re two by twelve’s nailed together, doubled beamed, the longest one’s about twenty feet long — they all disappeared the first night. It’s just a couple hundred to replace them, but $200 is $200. We haven’t had any other problems.”

Brotzman said Habitat asked the neighbors to keep watch on the house, which “they were more than happy” to do.

“They’ve all welcomed Pam to the neighborhood,” said Brotzman. “It doesn’t make any difference what nationality, where you went to school, what you do, where you work, anything like that — these people all come together. Just like our volunteers. Our volunteers go from church pastors, to janitors up at the university and the high school.”

Before moving into her new house, the Browns lived in the Chapultepec Homes public housing unit, where all residents are enrolled in the Family Self-Sufficiency program administered by the San Marcos Public Housing Authority. Most of the residents are from families that have single female heads of household.

“I graduated last year from the program,” said Brown. “It’s a five year program and I’ve been there seven (because) they gave me an extension so I could get a little more education.”

Brown said she learned cake decorating during the first five years and received a two-year extension so she could learn how to start a small business and stay at Chapultepec until her house was finished. She said most of the people she saw in the program graduated from it.

“Never give up, even if you feel that you’re ready to give up,” said Brown.

by Sean Batura

Holding the new keys to her home, Pam Brown and daughter Tyra Brown pose with Mayor Susan Narvaiz

The Brown family’s new home.

Photos by Christina Zambrano

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3 thoughts on “Habitat for Humanity dedicates new house

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  2. Sean Batura did a great job covering Habitat’s house dedication on Jackman St. Saturday. He not only captured the flavor of the event but did excellent reporting by interviewing the mayor and others to explain some of the behind the scenes work and principles that to into building Habitat homes. Sincerely, Buck Scheib, San Marcos Area Habitat Board

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