By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

A Salem family has a new home in Keizer thanks to the efforts of Salem Habitat for Humanity.

Greg, Olivia, Joshua and Ravyn Wuelfing were given the keys to their new home on Alexis Lane North at a dedication ceremony Saturday, Jan. 27.

“Thank you,” Greg told the assembled crowd of about 40 volunteers and Habitat staff members. “It’s been a great learning experience and the amount of support, the generosity that we’ve been shown and given … we couldn’t ask for anything better.”

The Wuelfings new home, half of a duplex that began construction last summer, was recently completed under the supervision of Construction Manager Dave Connell. Volunteers arrived in groups and as individuals over the course of the build and the Wuelfings were there as often as possible.

“We’ve been physically out here building and we were here when it was dirt and bark dust. We were here for the foundation and tried to be out here at every stage,” said Olivia. “It’s amazing to have something that is affordable for our kids to grow up in.”

Heather Wilson, Habitat’s director of volunteer engagement, said the Wuelfings were the ideal partners in the project.

“They’ve been out here and engaged working alongside the volunteers,” Wilson said.

Prior to receiving the keys to their new home, the Wuelfings were living in town house rental. The mortgage on the new home is expected to save them about $235 a month over their rental bill.

The Wuelfings moved into the town house while Greg was on deployment in Iraq as a member of the Army National Guard. After his deployment to the Middle East in October 2003, Greg was injured by grenade shrapnel in an attack in January 2005. He ultimately received a Purple Heart Medal.

The Wuelfings began the process to receive a Habitat home in March 2017, and it progressed rapidly from that point. In addition to providing a shelter and a mortgage to invest in, the duplex is equipped with visual smoke detectors and other accommodations for Ravyn, who was born deaf.

Greg said watching the home rise up from the dirt gave him renewed hope in more ways than one.

“It’s been really awesome seeing how it goes together, but the thing that got me was seeing different people coming together. Leaving the military, it’s odd because you don’t see society getting along the same way, but it was that way on this job site,” Greg said.

One volunteer alone, Don Larson, gave more than 300 hours of time to the construction of the home, several others gave more than 100 hours.

At the dedication ceremony, the Wuelfings also received a new home kit from Court Street Christian Church, a copy of the Bible, an American flag from the office of Rep. Kurt Schrader, official city pins from Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark, and three quilts from the organization Quilts of Valor, which provides quilts for veterans. Greg and Olivia’s quilt commemorates his service, Joshua’s was Minecraft-themed and Ravyn’s was a multi-hued pink.

“We can invest in this and hand it down to our kids later on,” said Greg. “Parents provide the security for their kids, but Habitat has given us stability and we couldn’t have done it without Habitat.”

Greg plans to get more involved with future Habitat builds and has a goal of beating Larson’s 356 hours on a single project.