BRISTOL — About 50 participants came together on Saturday to literally raise the roof of a house destined for a Habitat for Humanity family.
Saturday’s work day was a kickoff event to the 14th annual Women’s Build campaign, in which a Habitat home is constructed mostly by women, with construction scheduled for May 5 - May 31.
As part of the kickoff, volunteers received a complimentary breakfast provided by Essenhaus, a blessing of the day given by Chris Ballage, pastor at New Life Church in Goshen, and remarks from several guests, including Suzie Weirick, county commissioner, Susie Meeks-Wade, from Washington Township, Joanna King, an Elkhart County business leader and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski.
More than 200 women are expected to participate in this year’s build, the 14th predominantly women-built and -financed project organized by the Elkhart County affiliate.
The home is being built for Belinda Alonso and her family, a longtime Essenhaus employee who has suffered from declining health in recent years. It is going up in the 21000 block of County Road 8 in Bristol.
In a previous report in the Elkhart Truth, Amy Zakiewicz, Habitat director of development, said the Alonso family’s story is compelling one. Between 2012 and 2015, Alonso lost her brother, husband, grandmother and father and her own health started to decline, forcing her to leave her job of 13 years at Das Dutchman Essenhaus.
She returned to school to earn her bachelor’s degree and pursue employment in a less physically demanding field. She also interned at the YWCA in the hopes of turning it into a job, but her health continued to decline and she had to stop, according to Zakiewicz.
Alonso’s mother, Catheryn Pizzola, decided to move to the area from Muncie to help Belinda and her kids, ages 20, 14 and 12. They decided to apply to Habitat as joint applicants in order to provide a safe and stable home for the family, and were accepted in fall 2016.
Alonso hopes the home in Bristol will mean the end of constantly moving to new mobile homes and apartments, which don’t always have the accessibility she needs since she uses a walker and can’t stand for long periods. Once they’re moved in, she’d like to go back to school and earn a master’s in counseling if her health improves.
She and her mother were the first partner family in their class to complete all of their required sweat equity hours and Alonso feels like she really benefited from the financial education she received as part of the program, according to Zakiewicz.