Habitat for Humanity completes two more Westway homes in Federal Way

Habitat For Humanity volunteers work on one of the Westway houses funded by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant. - Photo courtesy of Shelley Pauls
Habitat For Humanity volunteers work on one of the Westway houses funded by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Shelley Pauls

Volunteers and members of Habitat for Humanity have slowly rebuilt, reshaped and renovated the Federal Way Westway neighborhood one house at a time.

And this month, the community rejoiced as their 47th and 48th rebuilt houses in Westway were dedicated to the families that spent “250 hours of sweat equity” working to make those houses homes.

The last two completed the goal of 10 and were all built under a 2011 federal grant awarded to Habitat for Humanity by the city of Federal Way.

“This is more than just a celebration of the two houses, it’s kind of a celebration of the whole project,” said Shelley Pauls, a longtime Habitat for Humanity volunteer.

Westway’s makeover began in 2002 when the Build a Bridge Community Coalition was formed by businesses, educational organizations and nonprofits. Habitat Seattle-King County, AmeriCorps, Franciscan Health System and the city were involved as well. Their mission was to “drive out crime and improve the living conditions in the neighborhood.”

Starting in 2005, 38 homes were repaired or renovated by 2011.

“It’s exciting to see the neighborhood growing again,” said Councilwoman Susan Honda, a longtime advocate of the project. “There are young families moving in, kids playing in the yards, and the neighborhood association is getting stronger. Habitat for Humanity’s work in Westway, and their partnership with the city, is one of the reasons for the neighborhood’s resurgence.”

Prior to 2005, Westway homes foreclosed and many were left as spots for criminal activity, such as illegal dog fighting, assaults, gang activity, drug trafficking and reckless endangerment.

But city officials saw the success from the initial work crime was starting to decline and was being replaced with a sense of community. In turn, they awarded the Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant of nearly $1.7 million to the local Habitat for Humanity organization for the 10 homes.

“It upgraded every neighborhood as a home was redone,” Pauls said of the foreclosed Westway homes. “All of that had to help.”

Pauls and her husband have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity since 2012 as members of the Overcomers Covenant Church in Auburn. They’ve helped every second Saturday of the month since then. Pauls said her favorite part is getting to know the volunteers and family members they help out.

“The relationships and the fun feeling of giving to the community has been a very positive experience,” she said.

Volunteers “completely gutted” houses and worked to replace the roofs, siding, doors, windows, insulation, appliances, heating systems, hot water heaters, plumbing and electrical. The two houses were dedicated to the families on June 7.

According to a Habitat for Humanity spokesperson Lisa Samuelson, David and Elizabeth Yonah, originally from south Sudan, recently moved into one of the last two Westway houses with their four children ages 3-12 years old.

Their country was “embroiled in a civil war that involved gross violations of human rights and serious violations of humanitarian law on a massive scale” when they left nine years ago.

The family arrived in the Puget Sound area after three years as refugees in Egypt, Samuelson said.

About $50,000 was donated by the PCL Construction company, which made the renovation on the Yonah’s home possible.

“Not only did [PCL Construction] contribute financially, they also provided many hours of volunteer labor with a team of employees who helped demolish the home and reframe it,” Samuelson said.

Ekaterina Maxsimov and Alexandr Maksimova, from Moldova, Russia, lived in a small apartment with their two sons before moving into their Westway home — the other of the last two. The family wanted more opportunities and to be closer to their family when they moved to the U.S.

A total of 697 volunteers dedicated 5,300 hours throughout the year to finish the two homes.

Volunteers were with the Christian Public Service, Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, Overcomers Covenant Church, St. Barbara’s Catholic Church, and Marine View Presbyterian. Sponsors include the city of Federal Way and PCL Construction, with Mountain Valley Heating and Air Conditioning, RGBJR Design, Woods Creative Interiors, Habitat For Humanity International, Whirlpool Corporation, Hunter Douglas, Valspar and Dow as in-kind donors.

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