Habitat for Humanity of Northern Santa Barbara County  
  Northern Santa Barbara County HFH
Habitat for Humanity of Northern Santa Barbara County
Many Hands Unite for a Home
It took seven pairs of hands from around the country to erect the first wall in a Santa Maria family's new home.

With hoots and hollers, smiles and sweat, volunteers began constructing the home for Elsa Parra and her children at 842 W. Barrett Street.

The project began almost two years ago when Parra, a widowed mother of four, called the Northern Santa Barbara County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity looking for help to repair her small, dilapidated house.

However, when officials evaluated the house they determined the best way to fix it would be to knock it down and start over.

The 640-square-foot building that housed Parra and three of her four children was demolished last summer to make way for a new, 1,240-square-foot, prefabricated home. She recalls that before her husband died they had plans to renovate the small house, but that never happened.

Construction is slated to last for eight days, officials said, and all the volunteers and the last bit of funding needed for the project were supplied by Buffini & Company, a nationwide businesscoaching firm that focuses on real estate, lending and other service industry professionals.

After Buffini & Company made a $1 million donation to Habitat for Humanity International, $100,000 of that was allocated to the Santa Maria project, said Richard Brown, executive director of Northern Santa Barbara County Habitat for Humanity.

Buffini & Company established a “Hands for Hope” project to help rebuild four homes in Louisiana in 2006. This year, the program aims to build homes in 11 locations around the country, including Parra's home in Santa Maria.

“(I'm) amazed by the volunteers,” Parra said, noting that they all seemed happy to be here building her house.

Originally, the Buffini donation and volunteers were assigned to a project in Ventura County, but the timing wasn't right and the resources were offered to Santa Maria.

“They called me and asked if we would be ready, and I said, ‘I will be ready,'” Brown recalled.

With rain earlier this week, he was just able to get the foundation poured and finished Friday. Commemorating her new home, Parra placed a penny in the foundation for “good luck and new beginnings.”

While waiting for all the pieces to fall into place for her new home, Parra and three of her four children, ages 10, 12 and 14, have been living with her mother. When they move into their new home, she plans to bring along her 2-year-old granddaughter as well.

Watching the flurry of activity Saturday morning, Parra said she hopes that someday her children will look back on this experience and be able to use it to help others.

The sense of giving something back and helping someone who needs a boost was a common feeling among the volunteers who came to Santa Maria to start work Saturday.

Parra's home is the second project Melanie Hitchcock has helped build; she previously worked on a project in Arizona. Hitchcock has worked for Buffini & Company in Carlsbad for three years and said she likes the emotional attachment of working with the people who will live in the homes.

Jade Sund and her husband Scot traveled from Colorado to Santa Maria to help. Jade has worked on one other project and Scot has volunteered on two others. “Giving back is how we allow ourselves to continue” to live a good life, she said.

The Santa Maria project is the first for Trish Curtis, a Pismo Beach Realtor, but she says she'll do it again.

“As Realtors, it's time to give back to the community,” she said, noting that not everyone is able to buy in this market. “It's a community-minded event that needs to be done.

” When the eight days of construction are done, officials expect to follow up with finishing work and then hold a dedication in early April.

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