The two wore hardhats not for a groundbreaking photo op, but to lend a hand on a worksite next to Lake Trail Middle School as they volunteered at the Habitat for Humanity Lake Trail build site.
A May 18 groundbreaking ceremony kicked off construction of the first two duplexes in what will be a multi-phased 10-unit affordable housing complex.
The .83 (.36 hectare) parcel of land on at 1330 Lake Trail Road will be a three-year phased development with four homes being built in 2018.
This is also the first time in Habitat for Humanity’s 14-year history that the organization is building simultaneously in two communities.
An 11-unit development is underway on Hilchey Road in Campbell River.
The two-floor duplexes will house 10 families.
Habitat for Humanity’s long-term goal is to build a total of 21 homes on the North Island — the aforementioned 11 in Campbell River and 10 in Courtenay — from 2017 through 2020.
Families moved into two of those 21 homes last fall.
Blaney’s and Leonard’s goal on Thursday was to raise awareness and encourage others to volunteer and support organizations that are tackling the housing crisis in the Comox Valley and Campbell River.
“Families that would have a hard time getting into the (housing) market would get a great opportunity to purchase into these homes,” Blaney said. “It’s homes for people, which is wonderful.”
Leonard said Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to give struggling people “a leg up, not a handout.”
“They (the families) put in 500 hours of sweat equity into the builds themselves so they have an investment in their new homes,” Leonard added. “Each of the families has to be chosen. It’s based on need. They do pay a mortgage but Habitat (for Humanity) provides it interest-free.”
Thursday marked Blaney’s first visit to the Lake Trail site.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s incredible to see all the community engagement. We’ve had a lot of volunteers join us today.”
Blaney and Leonard and their teams were kept busy.
“We’ve had to stack a lot of wood and pick up a lot of nails and other things,” Blaney said. “So it’s definitely different than what I do most days.”
“And everybody who’s on our team has been saying how great it is,” Leonard added. “You’re not only feeling a sense of satisfaction with the physical labour but you know you’re contributing to a really important initiative, here, and you feel at the end of the day that you’ve helped.”
Habitat for Humanity needs volunteers and dollars, Leonard noted. No experience required to help out.
To volunteer or donate, visit www.habitatnorthisland.com.