Lebanon Area Habitat looking to grow

By Jennifer Moody
For Lebanon Local
Lebanon Area Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to build affordable new homes for others.
What it wants now, however, is a new home for itself. And in some ways, that’s proving to be a lot harder.
The East Linn County chapter of Habitat for Humanity, an international nonprofit housing initiative, celebrated the groundbreaking earlier this month for its newest house, at 30572 Ridge St. in Sodaville.

At left, Habit for Humanity Project Manager Mike Miller and Executive Director Tina Breshears discuss plans with the McMahons.

The successful applicants are parents of two sons, ages 5 and 14, who have been struggling to find a place where both boys can have their own bedroom and where everything from the foundation to the rooftop is solid, clean and new.
Volunteers with Habitat and the Community Services Consortium Youthbuild program will combine efforts to complete the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home. The family will add another 500 hours in sweat equity.
“It feels good to see holes in the ground,” said Tina Breshears, Habitat’s executive director. “We have a very lofty goal of having it done by June of next year.”
This is the 31st Habitat house for the Lebanon-based group, which serves Lebanon, Sweet Home and Brownsville, since incorporating in 1993. It’s the first to be started since 2020. The group is hoping to split its last donated piece of Sodaville property into two lots for its next build.
“We are in such desperate need of affordable housing. It’s ridiculous. It’s horrible,” Breshears said. “If you don’t have a stable home life, it’s really hard to get anywhere.”
In keeping with its mission, Lebanon Habitat will continue to seek property for area homes. But what it really needs right now is something even more difficult to find, Breshears said: a place where the nonprofit itself can relocate.
Right now, the organization is using a 5,000-square-foot space at 566 S. Main St. in Lebanon as both its office and retail store. But to adequately house its ReStore products and administrative space, and to open a construction area where crews can prefabricate walls and recycle electronics, it really needs more like 25,000.
“We are popping at the seams,” Breshears said.
The prefab area is especially important, she said. If one were available, volunteers could use the space to build, but also to teach construction classes and help train more people in trade occupations. CSC could use it as its volunteer homebuilding center, and Habitat’s vehicles could be parked outside.
More room for the ReStore is also critical, she said. Part of Habitat’s work in the world is to keep as many items as possible from going to a landfill. Habitat provides a temporary home for the windows, cabinets, shelving, doorknobs, light fixtures and other elements people tend to replace, but it needs space to keep them until they can be resold.
The organization is planning to restart its capital campaign, “Building a Better Future,” which began at the end of 2019 but went on hiatus at the onset of the global pandemic in 2020. The goal is to raise $4 million. A kickoff event will be planned once the group has made some decisions about relocation.
Ideally, Breshears said, the campaign would bring in enough to pay for an already-existing building. Habitat is all about reducing, reusing and recycling, after all.
So far, however, no likely places have been found. Therefore, Plan B is to build, Breshears said – “we don’t know where” – and that’s what the $4 million would cover.
In the meantime, Habitat is working toward a temporary solution for at least the administrative part of the trifold campaign.

CSC YOUTHBUILD workers attach siding to the old Girl Scout Hut.

In 2018, Lebanon took ownership of a building at 1343 Park St. known as the Girl Scout Hut. Before becoming Habitat’s executive director, Breshears had co-chaired an effort to remodel the building to keep it a viable part of the Girl Scout regional council.
The work was never completed, but the council agreed to turn ownership of the hut over to Habitat rather than sell it or tear it down. Habitat hopes to finish that remodel and turn it into a community center, but also use it for its own administrative offices until the capital campaign is finished.
CSC YouthBuild is currently working on siding for the 85-year-old structure. The interior has been gutted (although the stage was saved), but when complete, it will have a full-size kitchen, a washer and dryer and shower, and a new heating and air conditioning system. It will also be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and accessible to people with physical limitations.
The hut is to be the temporary living quarters this coming spring for the Catholic Campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which is planning to come in March to work on the Sodaville home. When the remodel is finished, the idea is to make the space available to clubs, organizations and other nonprofits – like the Scouts – who need a place to meet.
“It’s going to still have the vision that we had always envisioned with it,” Breshears said.
The chapter has other projects in addition to home-building, the Scout hut remodel and the capital campaign. A two-year, $83,500 grant received in 2021 from the Meyer Memorial Trust is being used for a home repair and preservation program, to take care of everything from building ramps to repairing critical home problems.
Habitat also wants to add an “e-cycling” area to any new building it moves into, providing space for recycling electronics, something Lebanon doesn’t currently have. (For more information on programs, home applications and volunteer opportunities, visit lebanonoregonhabitat.com.)
In the meantime, however, Breshears said she and her team will continue concentrating on raising awareness in the community that Habitat for Humanity and its programs exist.
“A lot of people think Jimmy Carter owns it. Or that it’s a habitat for animals,” she said. “Just trying to get the word out that we’re here has been very difficult.”