Willamette West Habitat for Humanity was incorporated on October 12, 1988 as the 350th U.S. affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. Today there are over 1,700 affiliates in the U.S. Little is known of the early days of Willamette West Habitat. However, by late 1990 the affiliate consisted entirely of volunteers, occupied a small rented office at 7830 SW 40th in the Multnomah area of SW Portland, owned a steeply sloping lot in SW Portland, and had a set of house plans. At that time our region included west Portland.
Volunteers Bud and Nona Lowe were quite active in the early years on the Willamette West Habitat board. Ed Brauner met them and became aware of the organization at a Habitat for Humanity International training meeting at the Campbell farm in Yakima, WA, in late 1990.
Ed was elected president in 1991. He helped lead the effort to raise funds from churches and construct our first house. The construction was supervised by Bud Lowe assisted by Bill Lindsay, who later became a major force in our development. At that time our financial records consisted mainly of a shoe box filled with little pieces of paper. We were blessed when Leon Taylor joined Willamette West Habitat as Controller and brought order to our chaos. The first house was complete by late 1991. With the steep slope of the lot, the house is one story in the front and two stories in the rear. When the foundation was first excavated, the next rain turned it into a pool which eventually required an extensive drainage system to insure that the swamp did not return. The initial Habitat family later moved away and released the house back to Willamette West. The house was re-sold to a second Habitat family who still lives there.
During 1992, we were occupied with the search for a flat lot, a major priority after our first experience, and we found one as level as a billiard table, in Hillsboro. Even better, we found the remains of a sewer pipe and learned that there had been a house on the site before, so we didn’t have to pay the full development and connection fees! The house was completed, under Bill Lindsay’s direction, in 1993.
Bill Lindsay functioned during much of this time as a volunteer Executive Director. His leadership, along with that of Ed Brauner, was very effective in enlisting support from the churches.
In 1994, Tony and Liz Jeffery offered to donate the lot behind their house on SW 178th Street in Aloha to us. The Jeffery's are people of very modest means, so this was an amazingly generous offer. We were elated by the offer of land sufficient to build four homes. But our elation soon crashed when we learned that the space between the Jeffery’s and their neighbor’s house was not enough to allow for the width of road that the fire department required. Bill Lindsay, never to be stopped, approached the neighbors with a proposal. If we could demolish the garage attached to the side of their house and get an easement for a road, we promised we would build them a deluxe two-story garage behind their house. This was all the more complicated as the neighbors did not speak English. But God was truly on Bill’s side and the deal was accepted. The garage, by the way, was our first two-story building!
The four Habitat houses behind the Jeffery’s home were completed in 1996. Willamette West Habitat bought the land behind the neighbor’s house, which had room for six houses, including one two-story house. This development was completed in 1998 and named Samaritan Court after the story of the story of the Good Samaritan, from the Bible.
Samaritan Court was truly a turning point in Willamette West Habitat’s development. In addition to Bill Lindsay’s leadership, Al Vance joined our team. Ed Brauner remembers standing on the site with Al, surrounded by trees and brush, before any work had started, thinking about this immense undertaking and asking, “Can we do it?” Al smiled and Ed took that to be a yes. We learned how to obtain grants and loans through the county. We learned how to think in terms of $100,000 increments instead of $10,000 ones. We learned how to have multiple houses under construction. The affiliate we have today was born on Samaritan Court.
Next came a series of accomplishments:
Millennium Square with two duplexes in Hillsboro in 2000 – our first duplexes.
Leadership Row with five homes in Beaverton completed in 2006. Beaverton City government donated the land for Leadership Row. The Beaverton Chamber’s Leadership Program promoted the land donation and sponsored the first house built.
Lindsay Lane with 19 homes in Hillsboro completed in 2007. Lindsay Lane was unique in being our largest project, containing our first five bedroom home which was sponsored by the Thrivent Builds program and also including one of our smallest homes, a two bedroom house, lovingly called the “doll house” by construction volunteers.
Lindsay Lane required us to think in terms of larger scale operations in all phases of Habitat from family selection and partnering, to fund raising, to construction. Board president Melanie St. John was instrumental in accessing government funding for infrastructure, while we continued to work with the church and business communities to fund the houses. Melanie was another of our Presidents who worked virtually full time for the affiliate, inspiring other Board members to dig in and help make things happen, in the most cost-efficient manner possible.
Farmington Road became our next focus. Lawson Place at SW 170th, named in memory of the late Gary Lawson, a very supportive pastor from Calvin Presbyterian Church, with five homes was completed in early 2009. Vance Place at SW 160th, named in honor of Al Vance, began in 2009 and was completed in the summer of 2010. It is home to nine families.
Al was a very special person to dozens of homeowners and hundred’s of volunteers who benefited from his knowledge and leadership for over 15 years. In May 2010, Al passed away at the age of 87. Right up until the end, you could find him out on the jobsite, teaching construction volunteers how to build homes - and hope - for those less fortunate.
Huntting Park, in Beaverton, is named in honor of Bill, Becky and Patricia Huntting. Bill has given extraordinary service as site supervisor, house designer, and “the boss” for many years. This five-unit parcel of land is adjacent to our previous Leadership Row project. The City of Beaverton was instrumental in our obtaining this property including gaining title from the previous owner and funding the purchase through the HOME program. A ten-unit parcel in Hillsboro, named BraunerBrook in appreciation of Ed and Ellen Brauner’s long time service on the Board and Committees was completed in 2014 and Ramble Glen, an eight-unit parcel in Beaverton, in 2012.
As our construction grew from one-half a house per year to a consistent 5 to 6 houses, we experienced the need for increased staff and facilities. We hired our first Construction Manager in the fall 2002, upgraded our office presence with a full-time Business Manager in the fall 2004, and hired an Executive Director in May 2005.
At present we employ fourteen: Executive Director Mark Forker leads a staff of eight in the administrative building; Director of Construction Mike Wille oversees six on the construction site.
Willamette West held a series of yearly fundraisers at the Farmington Garden’s Nursery in 2007 and earlier. In 2008, we held our first breakfast fundraiser at the Kingstad Center in Beaverton. A second annual breakfast fundraiser was held at the Embassy Suites by Washington Square in 2009. The breakfast crowd soon outgrew the facility so a lunch was added as well. Attendance now exceeds 600 and in 2015 over $375,000 was raised.
Having outgrown our office and warehouse facility near Witch Hazel, in late 2009 we moved into a larger facility in the Hawthorne Business Park on Elam Young Parkway in Hillsboro. We now have 3,000 square feet of warehouse space to house all our building supplies and equipment; and 2,000 square feet of office space, giving us room to grow.
Poised for the future, we broke ground on Allen Estates in 2013. This 24-lot neighborhood is home to our first 3-story building and is designed townhouse-style with six buildings holding between three and five houses each. The neighborhood was completed building by building and will see the final house sale in October 2019.
We've now moved on to Denney Gardens, an infrastructure-ready property we purchased from a distressed developer in 2013 for $650,000. The property is located on Denney Road near Scholls Ferry and bordered by Fanno Creek to the north and some wetlands to the west. Construction began on the first triplex in 2018 and we estimate selling the final of 16 homes in 2022.
Our current land bank contains 8 lots in Hillsboro, named Alder Commons where we have begun infrastructure work in the summer of 2019, and 16 lots in King City.
The Brauner Award is given to recognize volunteer service over an extended period of time. It was established in 2006 under the leadership of board member Glen Fahs and is named in honor of its first recipients. Each recipient receives a personal award and his or her names are added to a perpetual plaque displayed in Willamette West’s office.
The award plaque reads: For the volunteer who communicates the Spirit of Habitat with Leadership, Kindness, Humility, Wisdom and Sustained Dedication.
- 2006 – Ed & Ellen Brauner
- 2007 – Les Rink
- 2008 – Cherry Williams
- 2009 – Al Vance & Bill Huntting
- 2010 – Terry Crawford & Melanie St. John
- 2011 – John Godsey & Cliff Hillebrandt
- 2012 – Patti Huntting, Brent Warren, and Kathy Zawislak
- 2013 - Glen Fahs & Paula Ohland
- 2014 - Hal Brockman & Dan Fako
- 2015 - Chuck Falconer, Larry Scott, and Robert Wood
- 2016 - Phil DeLuca and Tom Reese
- 2017 - Stan Axtman
- 2018 - no recipient chosen