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 Tulare Advance-Register


 Thursday, June 23, 2005
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Group assists families to own homes


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How to help

For more information or to volunteer at Self-Help Enterprises, visit www.self helpenterprises.org or call 651-1000.


Steven R. Fujimoto/Times-Delta Steven R. Fujimoto/

A crew of volunteers from La Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church in Scottsdale, Ariz., nail down roofing for one of the Self-Help project houses at Sierra View Estates in Lindsay. A crew raises a wall for one of the Self-Help project houses.

LINDSAY — Nathor See pointed to the inscription on what will soon be the front porch of her new home on Princeton Street.

Written in the concrete were two names: Valerie and Matthew.

"I'm building this house for my children," See, 23, said.

See and her husband, Seekham, 24, are one of 33 Lahu and Hmong families building their homes in a Lindsay neighborhood with the aid of Visalia-based Self-Help Enterprises.

They are doing much of the work themselves in place of a down payment.

Their home will have four bedrooms and two baths. They hope to move in before Thanksgiving.

"All the families that we serve are low-income and typically do not have the opportunity that local families have in providing them with safe and stable neighborhoods," said Self-Help program manager Liz Wynn. "We've improved their chances for success in life."

Self-Help Enterprises has helped more than 5,300 low-income families build homes in the Valley since 1965.

Nathor See, born in Thailand after her Lahu family fled Laos, immigrated to Visalia in 1989. She studied accounting at the College of the Sequoias. She, her husband and their two children rent a three-bedroom, one-bath house in Tulare.

"I can't wait to have Thanksgiving with my family in our own home," See said.

Around the corner, on Monte Vista Drive, Jack, John and Peter Chang are building a house for their Hmong parents, Yer Chang and Sy Thao.

"We owe it to our parents," said Jack Chang, 25, a meatcutter.

On Wednesday, two teams of families were painting roofs of two different houses. The men sat on top of their roofs installing the roof sheeting. The women were standing on ladders to paint the sides of the roof.

"These families get to work with their new neighbors building each other's houses," Wynn said. "It helps the families build a sense of community and pride and ownership of their own homes."

Further assistance from a youth fel— lowship based in Arizona is moving the construction ahead of schedule by four to six weeks, said youth pastor Neil Gatten of La Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church.

The Scottsdale-based youth ministry brought 140 students and 20 adult chaperones to help build homes in Fresno, Lindsay, Del Rey and Earlimart. The group arrived Saturday and is staying at the Visalia Nazarene Church.

"We are here to serve our fellow man," said adult chaperone Jim Shelley, 45, vice president of land development for Cachet Homes in Arizona.

Sixty student volunteers have painted homes, set up water heaters, installed roof sheeting and raised wood frames in Lindsay.

"I didn't think that we could do so much in four days," said Arizona high school student Sarah Werner, 14. "I was interested in carpentry when I was younger. Now, I know how to use a hammer and can build a treehouse."

The group is leaving Friday but the church has another construction project for the Palomino community in Arizona.

According to Shelley, the church will begin construction of six homes this fall through volunteer labor.

The church will work with local trade organizations to help the new residents learn skills to get better jobs in construction.

"We're combining the self-help concept with job training experience," he said.

Self-Help enterprises construction supervisor Pablo Reynoso said this is his first project and he's eager to see the new homeowners move in.

"It's a neat experience to watch these people as they experience the joy of owning their own homes that they built themselves," he said. "They have sweat equity."

  • The reporter can be reached at atan@visalia.gannett.com.

    Originally published June 23, 2005

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