by Marissa Lorenz
Habitat for Humanity and Maria Archuleta-Jones hosted an open house earlier this month for Habitat’s most recent and 11th home to be built in the community.
Habitat was founded in Georgia in 1976 and has been active in Grand County for almost 20 years. It is a faith-based organization, with a “policy of non-proselytizing,” and whose vision is “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.” They work with banks and mortgage lenders to provide low-interest loans to new home-owners and work with the home-owners, community organizations, and volunteers to construct new homes at affordable costs.
Residents apply for acceptance to the program and are then expected to provide man-power in the construction of the home to be sold to them. It was an employee of Grand County Health and Human Services and personal friend who suggested to Maria, of Hot Sulphur Springs, that she apply. Last year, she was accepted out of an unknown number of applicants and, following an official ground-breaking, began work on her own home on August 22, 2019.
Maria recounts how construction took longer than planned and came with unexpected challenges, mostly due to the shortage of subcontractors in the county. She says the building phase took longer than expected, but that she and her two youngest children moved into the home December 12. She attributes the extent of work done to such generous resources as Grand Lake Plumbing and Heating, Power to the People, and the Roofing Company, who completed the plumbing, electric, and roofing work, respectively. Other essentials, like painting and interior design were donated by her own friends.
Maria further ascribes the near-excessive donations of materials and labor to her father’s long-standing place in the community. Her father, John Archuleta, and step-mother Bev were long-time residents of Hot Sulphur Springs. John had vacationed in Grand County for a long time and brought his children for vacations when they were small. He then relocated to Grand County for good in the 1990s. He became active in the Hot Sulphur community, was known as an avid fisherman, and a loyal sponsor for Alcoholics Anonymous.
It was his devotion to and support of individuals paths to sobriety that Maria says made him so beloved, above and beyond his other community involvement and volunteerism. She recounts how she herself had fallen into a challenging place when she called her dad and said, “I need to come home.” And so she came back to Grand County for good, with a single suitcase and her small children, and moved into Hot Sulphur’s Ute Motel. She has since established herself as a dedicated mother and hard worker, opening her own cleaning business Sparkle Specialists. She sees the opportunity of home-ownership through Habitat for Humanity as a particular gift but recognizes, “I’ve worked hard, physically and emotionally, to make this happen.”
Unfortunately, John would not live to see his daughter and her family settled in their new home. But his legacy lives on, both in the largess experienced through the building of her home and in the inspiration to continue his work. “I’m here to help others,” Maria says with an open smile. “And because of him and his relationships, we saw more donations than ever before.”
And last week, in return, she was surrounded by friends and family for the open house that would celebrate her goal of home-ownership. Father Matthews from Church of the Eternal Hills was on-site to bless the home. The Grand County Quilters gifted hand-sewn quilts for Maria and her children. And she opened a bright and welcoming home to all who would be interested.
Bright colors and original art characterize the rooms. In-floor radiant heat keeps bare toes comfortable. There is an upstairs and downstairs bath. And both of her young children finally have their own rooms, cheerful large rooms with storage and space to play. Maria’s own room is also spacious and reflects both her own light and the many people who have supported her on her journey.
She glows when speaking of Habitat and says, “I love them. They are all like family now.” And praises how easy they were to work with and the flexibility that allowed such things and changes to the original layout of the home. “It is a prayer answered– like getting my life back,” she says.
For more information on Habitat for Humanity, how to become involved, or on upcoming opportunities for home-ownership, visit www.habitatgrandcounty.org or call 970-887-9138.