It’s holiday time and that means buying gifts for people. Whether you’re buying a small toy to give to a child one evening during Hanukkah, buying clothes a teenager needs to wear to school, or buying something fun to put under the tree for the whole family, you’re spending money, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. You build your list and buy your gifts one piece at a time. At Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, we buy and build homes for families, one piece, and one price, at a time.
While some of the pieces are small and inexpensive there is no such thing as an unimportant piece in the construction of a home. It’s like a giant 3D puzzle, sometimes a missing piece would simply make the house incomplete. Other times, a missing piece could make the house unlivable. You can’t look at a box of puzzle pieces and say, “Oh, we don’t need that piece,” if you want a complete puzzle. The same holds true for a Habitat House.
Every piece that goes into a Habitat House is important and every one of those important pieces has a price. When you look at a list of the pieces, and their prices, you see how expensive it is to build a home. You also get an idea of what your donation dollars are spent on.
Several years ago, I was the Statewide Coordinator for a relief and development organization that put out a “Gifts for Life” catalog. It listed all sorts of critical items you could “buy” that would be given to a family, or a village, to help them become self-sustaining. Each item bought from the catalog was donated in someone’s name.
When you get to the list below, consider donating one of the pieces in the name of someone special. Not only will you help build a house and touch the lives of everyone in a family, you’ll be giving a unique gift that can touch the heart of the person you give it to.
$10 for a box of nailsNails are one of the smallest items to go into building a home, but you couldn’t build a house without them. Volunteers use thousands of nails in every home – somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 nails, and that means a lot of boxes. Without every one of those boxes, the house couldn’t stand. When you give the cost of a box of nails in someone’s name, you’re giving what holds everything together.
$35 for a square (bundle) of shingles
A shingle doesn’t seem like a big deal, but without every shingle, the family inside couldn’t stay dry and healthy. If even one shingle is left off, moisture leaks into the walls, mold can grow, and over time, structural integrity can be compromised. To roof a home that is twenty-six feet wide and forty-eight feet long, it takes fifteen squares of shingles. That’s a lot of shingles, and a lot of opportunities to give.
$60 for a bathroom vanity top
Can you imagine your bathroom not having a vanity in it? The vanity holds the sink that allows everyone to wash his or her hands and stay healthy. The vanity usually is the storage place for all the cleaning supplies that keep the bathroom clean and healthy. There may be only one or two vanity tops in most Habitat homes, but every one of them is critical.
You’d be pretty hard pressed to find an outhouse still in use in the Twin Cities, but that’s exactly what you’d have to use if you didn’t have a toilet in every bathroom. To be good stewards of the environment, and respectful users of our natural resources, Twin Cities Habitat puts low flow toilets into every home we build. Low flow toilets also save our homeowners money, giving them a little more cash in their pockets to spend on nutritious food, transportation, or a mortgage payment. We think they’re a good investment, and a great gift.
$200 for a window (on average)
No one would seriously consider building a home in Minnesota without windows. And anyone who has ever replaced old windows with high-efficiency windows doubts their value when it comes to keeping the weather outside, and the temperature right on the inside. Habitat installs windows that keep utility bills low to make it just a little easier for homeowners to handle the bills and the mortgage each month.
$450 for a set of entryway doors
Safety and security for a family can’t be had without good entryway doors. They keep out unwanted weather, and unwanted intruders. They are totally necessary, and a totally cool gift.
$1,200 to waterproof a basement
A dry basement is a healthy basement, it’s also financially wise. If water gets in, mold can form and have a severe impact on the family. For a homeowner who has given their family more living space by finishing the basement, a wet basement could mean a severe financial hit, too. The gift of a dry basement would make an awesome stocking stuffer.
$2,000 for siding for the entire house
Not putting siding on a house would be sort of like building a car but leaving the wheels off. Siding is what literally seals the deal when it comes to a home. It keeps the weather out and doesn’t let moisture in that can cause mold. Good siding (like the Hardie Plank we use) helps lower energy costs and save money. It’s also what finishes the appearance of the home and an attractive home lifts up an entire neighborhood. It protects the homeowner’s investment, and makes every home a little nicer place to live.
Obviously, much more goes into a home than what’s listed above, but the list should give you an idea of what donated dollars are spent on. Building a home for a family is rewarding, and expensive, and everything that goes into the home is important.
I hope something on the list inspires you to donate the cost of that item in someone’s name. Give a box of nails or a window in a child’s name, and you teach one child they can positively impact the lives of everyone in a family. As a parent, the gifts that help others are usually the ones my children cherish most. This year, give a gift from our list, and change the lives of a family forever.