COOK- When North St. Louis County (NSLC) Habitat for Humanity starts looking into a new build, they most often start with a property in hand and approve a new family for it. Sometimes, however, it …
COOK- When North St. Louis County (NSLC) Habitat for Humanity starts looking into a new build, they most often start with a property in hand and approve a new family for it. Sometimes, however, it unfolds in the opposite way.
The latter was the case for Tara Cotten, of Cook, and her daughters Natalia, 7, and Brooklyn, 6, who on Sunday participated in groundbreaking ceremonies for their future home at 419 4th Street NW, a property that neither Cotten or Habitat Executive Director Nathan Thompson knew they would have when she was selected last winter.
“We found our partner family, Tara, here about six months ago or so,” Thompson said. “We knew there was land around, that we needed to pursue. But even as we selected Tara, we got a call from a potential donor saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got some property up in Cook, would you guys be interested?”
The call came from Kirk and Angela Weidner, a couple who live in the Twin Cities area. Cargill, the company Kirk works for, has been involved with Habitat for Humanity builds all across the country, and the Weidners volunteered for a Habitat build in Hibbing last fall, Angela said. The fact that the Weidners have an interest in the Iron Range is no coincidence.
“I grew up on Sand Lake in Britt,” Kirk said. “Our family’s always been from the Range and we still have a brother living in Virginia. We spend the summers up here.”
Regional ties and past involvement explain the Weidners’ interest in reaching out to NSLC Habitat for Humanity, but it took a twist of fate for a couple with ties to Britt, Virginia, and the Twin Cities to end up with land in Cook to donate.
“We weren’t looking for property in Cook,” Kirk said, “but somebody else who owned this property needed some help, so we helped him, and part of that is that we ended up with the land. But again, we didn’t mean to have land in Cook. We hoped we could find a great fit and Habitat was first and foremost on our minds. Nathan has been fantastic to work with and it’s just a treat that it’s worked out so well.”
Sunday’s groundbreaking was largely symbolic, as foundation and slab work started more than a week earlier, Thompson said, but still more than two dozen volunteers and supporters turned out for the event, including St. Louis County Seventh District Commissioner Mike Jugovich, of Hibbing.
“My experience (with Habitat) started when I was mayor of Chisholm, when we had a number of homes built,” Jugovich said. “People don’t understand that these homes aren’t free. These homes are built with sweat equity. And these homes keep kids in school districts. They get to stay around. They have a beautiful new home, it improves neighborhoods, it does so many good things that people don’t necessarily see. There are so many good things that come from it. This is something that I’ve really enjoyed over the years and something I will continue to be a part of.”
It also wasn’t the first time Tara, a 2007 Cook High School graduate, and her daughters had been to the site, and the girls appeared to be excited walking around and exploring the recently-completed slab.
“We come by every day,” Tara said. “We drive by to see the progress and that has been amazing. It’s just such an awesome and amazing experience to watch your house being built step-by-step. The girls are beyond excited. Right now, they’re sharing a bedroom, so they just can’t wait to have their own space and own bedrooms to decorate. It’s a learning experience for them to have already been plotting out where everything is going to be. They just asked now where their bedrooms are.”
Work was scheduled to resume on Monday with volunteers putting up wall framing, and Thompson said the exterior shell should be largely complete within two weeks. With many volunteers moving on to other sites after that, interior work will move at a slower pace.
Tara will be required to put in a minimum of 200 hours of work on her home and get 100 more hours of sweat equity from family and friends, Thompson said. Many other volunteers will be working over the next few months to make the home a reality, utilizing materials mostly procured from Cook Building Center. Once she moves in, Tara will begin making payments to Habitat on a zero-percent 30-year mortgage, with the funds turned over to support additional builds, Thompson said.
The Cottens will have several neighbors to the south, and will eventually have more to the north, too, as the property donated by the Weidners is large enough to accommodate four more homes.
For now, Thompson anticipates relatively smooth sailing with this build, even in the face of high lumber costs and some constraints in the supply chain.
“We’ve done some preordering of materials to make sure we have what we need,” he said. “We and our community and our volunteers are ready to step up to the plate and meet the challenge.”
Habitat for Humanity is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to providing decent, affordable housing by building strength, stability and self-reliance in partnership with people and families in need. Habitat for Humanity operates in more than 70 countries and all 50 U.S. states. This will be the fourth build in Cook by NSLC Habitat.