ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Ahmed Abdi and Ubah Kahlif welcomed visitors this month into their brand-new East Side home for food, socializing and prayer — and to dedicate its completion as Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity's 100th home.
Dozens of people — friends, family, neighbors and volunteers from more than 20 churches and mosques, some still in painting clothes from other Habitat for Humanity projects — showed up to the Jan. 8 dedication.
"I have no words, I'm just speechless," Abdi said as he addressed the group gathered in his family's new garage.
Abdi and his family will join 99 others in Central Minnesota who have moved into affordable housing built by Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, the St. Cloud Times reported.
He has worked in the equity department in St. Cloud school district for eight years, and was living in an apartment with his wife and kids.
When their fifth child was born, the family needed somewhere with more room, so they applied for a Habitat for Humanity home.
"They're very excited to see it," Abdi said. Their children got to visit the house before it was finished, and were already picking out the rooms they wanted.
Formed in 1989, a decade after Habitat for Humanity International was formed in Georgia, the Central Minnesota affiliate recently celebrated its 30th year of building homes.
This build was part of the affiliate's Faith Build series, an interfaith project.
"We open it up to the ... interfaith community and invite congregations — churches and mosques and synagogues — to be a part of this," said Rick Nelson, executive director of Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity.
It's a partnership with Thrivent Financial and Capital One. This newest home is the 28th Faith Build they've done.
"It's got a good feel to it," Nelson said. "It brings people together of different faiths, working side by side on a project like this."
Dennis Douma, who has been a Habitat for Humanity volunteer for 10 years, said the Faith Build went very well.
"I think by having people from different communities all coming together, there's a certain camaraderie and bonding that happens," he said.
The build process went smoothly, he said. The two-story house is a new type of structure for the affiliate, and that came with extra challenges — it's a new floor plan and it required extra scaffolding and working off the ground.
Douma worked on all sorts of things from interior framing to landscaping to siding. He got to see the project through from start to finish.
"It turned out really well," he said. "At first I wasn't sure about this type of structure, but I think that especially with a larger family they're going to have a lot of room on that second floor that they'll really appreciate."
Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity does other special builds like Tiger Builds , where students at Tech High School build a house on campus as part of a yearlong course.
Students spend a couple hours every day working alongside site supervisors and construction personnel to put together one house each year, Nelson said.
"And then we get we actually, literally move the house in the middle of the night out to the chosen lot," he said. A little bit of finishing work later and the Tiger Build house is ready for a family to move in.
"Yeah, it's a really cool partnership," Nelson said, "and it fits the needs of kind of techie-minded students who are interested in those kinds of vocations."
They're hoping to expand the program to other Central Minnesota schools, he said.
In the last couple of years, Nelson said, they started a series of Veterans Builds to help veterans and their families with housing cost burdens.
One family has moved into the first house in the project, but Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity is looking for more applicants for future builds.
Work has slowed on the most recent Veterans Build as it awaits an eligible family to move in, Nelson said. They've received "many, many inquiries," however, so Nelson is optimistic that the Veteran Build project will pick up steam.
People wanting to apply to become a homeowner through Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity can go to cmhfh.org/homeownership to apply. Applicants need to demonstrate a need for affordable housing and be willing to give their time as sweat equity hours volunteering on Habitat for Humanity projects.
When an applicant family is accepted, they purchase an affordable mortgage through Habitat for Humanity with payments of no more than 30% of the family income.
Both Abdi and his wife put in 200 sweat equity hours each, Abdi said. He also worked on the Tiger Build at Tech High School.
"They have been great, great people to work with," Abdi said. He and his family will now have room to grow in their new home
"It's beautiful," he said. "Simply beautiful."