News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Marie Clasen reflects on two decades helping families

After 19 years of helping 63 families on their journey to home-ownership, Marie Clasen has hung up her hardhat as Sisters Habitat for Humanity’s volunteer and family services manager.

She wrapped up her tenure surrounded by coworkers, volunteers, Habitat families, and her friends and family at a retirement party featuring David Jacobs-Strain and his band. The party was planned by Clasen herself, and it’s no surprise as she was the go-to gal to coordinate home dedications, groundbreakings, wall-raisings, Christmas parties, and volunteer appreciation events for the local nonprofit.

The event planning, however, was just a small part of Clasen’s work at Habitat. She worked alongside future homeowners guiding them through the home-ownership process, which can take two years or longer. She was the connection between the families and the family-selection and partnership committees. After new legislation passed a few years back, Clasen also became a qualified loan originator and took classes every year to keep her certification current, said Sharlene Weed, executive director of Sisters Habitat.

Weed first met Clasen when Weed was a student teacher at Sisters Elementary School and Clasen’s daughter, Elyss, was in her class. They connected again when Clasen was a family advocate for Head Start and Weed’s son Jeremiah was in the program.

“I’m guessing I have spent more time with Marie than any other human being including my mom,” Weed told the crowd of about 60 during the retirement party. “Marie has been my confidant, life coach, sister, emergency contact, ride to the airport, parenting and relationship advisor. She has an intuitive sense of what is needed. She is compassionate, wise, and thoughtful.”

When Clasen came to Habitat in 2002, she and Weed were the only employees. Since that time the staff has grown to 14, and Clasen has brought new programs to the local affiliate: Women Build, Collegiate Challenge, the high school construction program with Tony Cosby, RV Care-A-Vanners, and Creation Vacation.

Additionally, she oriented new volunteers for working at the construction site, thrift store, and ReStore. She attended all board meetings and supported her coworkers and volunteers in many ways. One such way was bringing donuts to the job site once a week.

Clasen was showered with gifts and praise from Habitat families, volunteers, and coworkers at her party. She was grateful and humbled by the accolades, but she reminded the group that she won’t be a stranger. She joked that she still has a desk at the office, but her time will be spent volunteering, and she’ll still be available to work with Kristina Maxwell who was hired this summer to step into Clasen’s position.

Maxwell comes to Sisters Habitat with 16 years experience in the banking industry. Eight of those years were spent at the local U.S. Bank branch. Most importantly, Maxwell is quite familiar with the Habitat for Humanity model. She first learned about Habitat when a friend went through the program in Montana.

In 2012, she and her husband, Josh, moved to Sisters from Montana and then became Habitat homeowners in 2015. Since then she served on the Habitat board of directors and is currently serving as a family partner. Being a homeowner gives her a unique point of view and an understanding of what future homeowners need and the steps it takes to owning a home. At the same time she wants to stress that Clasen has built a strong home-ownership program at Sisters Habitat.

“I don’t like to use the word replacing,” Maxwell said about her new position. “I hope to continue and expand upon the great groundwork Marie has laid out.”

 

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