With several gallons of “Urban Nature” painted over her white house on the corner of Spruce Street and Fourth Avenue, homeowner Laraine Claire sees her revitalized green house as a place people can continue to blossom.
She and two other Sequim homeowners opened their homes to Sequim Service Fest, a first-of-its-kind event from June 4-15, where volunteers removed debris, painted exteriors, and much more. The City of Sequim, Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County and First Federal coordinated the event with various projects scheduled through the event.
For Claire, Service Fest reinstated her hope.
“God has a plan for this house,” she said.
Since she bought it in 2003, it’s been a safe place for music and creating community. Her sons Wesley and Keaton Stromberg, singer-songwriters for the band Emblem3, were raised there and lyrics from their first band The American Scholars still line downstairs walls.
However, a fire to her now ex-husband’s business devastated her income stream prompting her to move to California and rent her Sequim home. While away, some renters didn’t pay leading her close to foreclosure.
Claire extends her gratefulness to First Federal who “did everything in their power to help me keep the house.”
She moved back in 2014 and turned her home into a community house renting four of the rooms to make mortgage payments to a variety of people.
“It’s filled a need in the community for young adults, women escaping abusive situations, people in recovery from drugs and alcohol, and those with bad credit who may not qualify for housing,” Claire said. “What I’ve come to learn is there’s a real need for low income housing here.”
Claire said she qualified for Habitat’s income qualifications as a homeowner while continuing to work for Cedarbrook Lavender & Herb Farm gift store.
Her daughter and grandson live in the house, too, and she sees the house remaining a community house for some time.
Revitalizing a fan
Mark and Margie Powless were the first home project for Care-A-Vanners, a group of 20-plus RVers who volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, where they spent about five days cleaning up, painting and installing a fence.
Mark, a Seattle Seahawks’ fan, got his wish for his home to be decorated in their team colors.
“It’s beautiful,” Margie said. “They did such a great job and they’re such nice people, too. Some of them said they’d want to stop by again when they come back to the area.”
Upon arrival, the Powless’ exterior was filled with tires, appliances and miscellaneous junk.
“I’m not one who asks for help, but I figured I’d put in (an application to Habitat) and see what they say,” Mark said. “They called me within 10 minutes. They didn’t make us feel bad either.”
Neighbors have praised the volunteers’ efforts, the couple said, and two dumpsters were filled and a metal recycler was brought in to clear their yard.
“It feels good to have a part of it done,” Margie said. “They caught us up a lot.”
Next, the couple plans to do some yard work and replace some windows.
City and Habitat officials say Service Fest went well.
“It was better than planned,” said Colleen Robinson, Habitat executive director. “Having nothing to compare it to, we didn’t make expectations too high but the Care-A-Vanners, city, homeowners and community partners went above and beyond.”
Robinson said projects were finished by the morning of June 15 ranging from construction of informational kiosks to housing projects to painting Little League dugouts.
City and Habitat officials debriefed on June 18, and Robinson said Habitat International is interested in Sequim’s Service Fest to see if it can be done in other rural communities.
As for locally, she said Service Fest may become a rotating event between cities.
“We have to do fundraising to build a home, so maybe we’ll do a Service Fest every other year and replicate it in Port Angeles and then Forks, and keep cycling around and possibly bring it back to Sequim,” Robinson said.
Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said there are a lot of potential outcomes from Service Fest.
“It’s partly up to Habitat and what they can handle,” he said. “We’re certainly willing to help with Forks and Port Angeles and share what worked for us.”
Bush said the city may consider an ongoing contract with Habitat to be on-call for a special neighborhood revitalization project to help alleviate any possible need. They’ll also continue to engage neighborhoods for feedback, he said.
Rally in the Alley on June 6 featuring six dumpsters at three sites filled within an hour of the event, and the city plans to announces its final rally for the fall.
Sequim Day of Color on June 5 also provided all of its free paint available in the city’s logo colors, and Bush said city officials may consider a similar project that could be done through a year.
“I felt everyone felt great about the work being accomplished — improving quality of life projects for the homeowners and neighbors and we got some good city projects done,” Bush said. “And we got an increased positive vibe here in Sequim.”
Linda and John Eiden of White Salmon volunteered as a Care-A-Vanner for the first time in Sequim and Linda said they enjoyed the city’s vibes.
“Habitat, the city, citizens, and the homeowners made it a wonderful experience,” she said. “We’ve been impressed with everyone. It made us want to move here.”
As full-time RVers, Linda said “there home is wherever we park it.”
“This is our way to give back to the community we’re staying in,” she said.
Vicky and Rick Reed of Dallas, Texas, made Sequim their second Habitat RV experience after Hobbs, New Mexico, where they helped build a house.
“Sequim is different in not being a (new home) build but the city has been amazing to work with on so many projects going on at one time,” Vicky said.
Now the Reeds are scheduled for six Habitat builds this year and seven in 2019.
Linda Eiden said the homeowners were really grateful and to see their homes transformed.
For more information on Service Fest, contact Assistant City Manager Joe Irvin at 360-582-2457 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County at email@example.com, 360-775-3742 or by visiting www.habitatclallam.org.