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Habitat for Humanity to restart construction for first veteran home

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A new year can often bring changes to the community, but Habitat for Humanity’s desire to help neighbors in need stayed the same.

Habitat for Humanity La Crosse Area is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry that partners with homeowners and the community to provide families with a place to call home. The year 2020 brought significant challenges for the nonprofit.

After shuttering its doors for two months at the start of the pandemic, construction on homes was slow for the remainder of the year as Habitat limited volunteer participation to ensure social distancing and safety. Habitat for Humanity ReStore also lost revenue that helps with the nonprofit’s mission. Despite those limitations, Habitat still completed four homes in 2020.

“We were on target to complete six homes last year,” Executive Director, Kahya Fox said. “This means two families were not able to move into their new homes like we had hoped.”

One of those families was Habitat’s first veteran partner family, Jacob Klatte, his wife Stephanie, and their three sons. Construction on their home located at 957 Hood Street in La Crosse was halted in order to complete three homes that were farther along in the construction process.

Jacob was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps from 2004-2013. The family currently lives in very old home. The leaky home burdened the family with high heating and electric bills, stretching their monthly budget even further. Every spring, the basement floods, and they have to deal with bad smells and mold.

The new year means new hope for the Klatte family as Habitat resumes construction full-time on their “Habitat for Heroes” Veteran Home. “Habitat for Heroes” is a program aimed at helping local veterans by encouraging interaction, skill development, and support while volunteering to build homes for veterans and their families. This program is backed by the efforts of a committee that includes representation from area veterans, veteran’s family members, local businesses, and local veteran organizations.

“We are so excited to be able to offer these opportunities for families in our communities, especially our veterans who have given so much to us,” Fox said. “It is our chance to give back to them. We’ve had an outpouring of support from people who are interested in helping in whatever way they can. Most of the volunteers that have helped so far on that home have been veterans, so it is fellow veterans helping a veteran in their community.”

Brickl Bros., First American Roofing, and Window World have already donated materials and labor to speed up the home’s construction, which should be complete in time for the family to enjoy summer grill-outs in their back yard.

Habitat La Crosse is looking for volunteers to help complete construction on the “Habitat for Heroes” home. More information about Habitat for Heroes and how to volunteer or make a donation can be found online.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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