Homes that dreams built |

Homes that dreams built

Tami Kesel was beaming like Sunday afternoon’s sun.

After years of raising three children in Nevada County rentals, Habitat for Humanity was dedicating her new duplex on North Church Court in Grass Valley. After putting in 500 hours of her own sweat equity, the low-cost loan home was her dream come true.

“This is an incredible miracle that happened for us,” Kesel said. “Today is the best day I’ve had since I had my kids.”

In the next few weeks, Kesel and children Dylan, Emma and Jacqui will move in.

“I never really thought I’d own a home here,” Kesel said. “I wanted to keep raising my kids in Grass Valley, and now I can.”

Her neighbors will be Derek and Karen Dixon and their children, Jordan, Chase and Asia. They were no less happy than the Kesels.

“We’ve never would have owned our own home if it wasn’t for Habitat and we helped build it, which is very important,” said Karen Dixon.

“No more living in run-down houses,” said a smiling Derek Dixon.

The Kesels and Dixons were selected from about 25 families that applied to Habitat for Humanity for the homes. According to Nevada County chapter Associate Executive Director Kathy McDaniel, those applying must have lived and worked in the county for one year.

Those eligible must be at or below the county’s median income of $64,000 per year, according to Rod Fivelstad, the chapter’s president. Once accepted, a family must go through a program of training, which includes budget management.

They must also put in 500 hours worth of work on the home, be it painting or hauling lumber. The work was done by about 60 different Habitat volunteers who labored on the homes three days a week.

One of those volunteers is Norm Westmore, the vice president of operations for the chapter.

Habitat bought the property for about $285,000 and then rehabilitated a small home on it, Westmore said. That was sold on the open market and raised $250,000, which helped pay for the duplex’s materials.

So why would a successful Bay Area businessman who retired early want to build homes for Nevada County people in need?

“We got into this in the Bay Area, and I just thought it was a way to give back to the community,” Westmore said.

The families will pay for the homes with no-interest, 30-year loans that essentially pay for the materials. Professionals needed for electrical and plumbing work do so for the program at a discount.

“A lot of people think they just get the house for free,” said Mary Sperlazza, the chapter’s public relations person. “We set up the loan and they pay for it” with a monthly payment not to exceed one-third of their income.

Perhaps Bradley Helmuth of Calvary Bible Church who blessed the homes summed it up best.

“It’s a celebration of people working together.”


How to apply

or volunteer

If you are interested in Habitat for Humanity, either to get a home or to volunteer for the organization, call the Nevada County chapter at 274-1951. Chapter members host an orientation for prospective homeowners and then select them after a screening process.


To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail or call 477-4237.

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