Kathy Wegner knew years ago that she and her husband, Bob, would someday move to Boulder.
“It had to be at least fifteen, twenty years ago,” she said. “We drove through Boulder for the first time and I was so impressed with the vibe here. I said, ‘I’m going to live here someday.’”
Three years ago, when Kathy and Bob retired from their jobs in Delaware, the couple lived out Kathy’s prediction and moved to the mountain city. They signed up for a Habitat for Humanity build in Nepal shortly after, but the trip was cancelled due to civil unrest in that country. That’s when they realized they could be doing the same kind of work in their own backyard.
Kathy and Bob quickly became involved with Flatirons Habitat for Humanity, working at the Wonderland Creek build site for the last year and a half of the project. Although, Kathy noted, it feels like longer - “the people we work with right away seemed like family and friends.”
The couple enjoyed watching volunteers of all backgrounds and skill levels coming together to build high-quality affordable homes. Bob loved working with college students - mostly construction novices - and helping them learn the ropes. It was especially touching to see how proud they were of their work at the end of the day.
“You’d walk by the houses and see them taking pictures of each other on the scaffold or with the tools because they were so proud of what they were doing,” said Bob.
And Kathy appreciated watching the new volunteers gain skills and confidence. “At first, you’re helping everybody put on their tool belt and figure out how to fit their hard hat. And within two hours they’re using power tools and climbing on scaffolding,” she said.
The opportunity to get to know the Wonderland Creek homeowners made Kathy and Bob’s experience even more worthwhile. They especially clicked with homeowner Jennifer, whose husband Ralph is a disabled veteran, as they helped build her ADA-compliant home.
“We would be putting in tile when it was really hot, or working without heat when it was freezing outside, and I’d say, ‘Wow, Jennifer’s going to like this!’” said Kathy.
As volunteers and eventually crew leaders, Bob and Kathy felt a part of a true community at the build site. But as they became more involved with Flatirons Habitat, they realized that the sum of their work was more than just a house. Flatirons Habitat brought people together: homeowners doing “sweat equity,” volunteers wielding hammers and power tools, AmeriCorps members leading construction crews, local businesses offering financial and in-kind resources, and more. Each party was offering their available resources to build safe, decent, and affordable homes for hardworking community members. And in the process, they were making their hometown more equitable and inclusive.
“If you put a family in a home, that’s immeasurable in terms of what they’re going to pay forward,” said Bob. “Their physical and mental health will be better. And they’ll be part of the community.”
Kathy, who was so impressed with Boulder decades ago, notes how vital Habitat’s mission is in maintaining the unique atmosphere that first drew her here.
“It’s important to have affordable housing for everyone, otherwise Boulder is going to change,” she said.
Kathy and Bob know that home is the foundation for everything else: safety, education, health. And Habitat, they’ve learned, lays the foundation for community.