News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Habitat celebrates home ownership

Habitat for Humanity homeowners must always take a long road toward the moment when they cut the ribbon on their new abode. For Terri Gookin and Patrick and Diane Yates, who celebrated the dedication of their new homes on Bluebird Street in the ClearPine subdivision on Friday, October 22, the road was longer — and more filled with rocks and potholes — than most.

Volunteers and families spent the past two years working in pandemic conditions, with growing supply interruptions. Construction Manager Darleen Snider acknowledged all the local suppliers who help provide materials, and the volunteer “cast of characters it takes to build one of these houses.” The threat of COVID-19 reduced that cast of characters from around 20 to “six hardcore guys who have finished these houses.”

Snider said that “With COVID, it has become a definite challenge.”

But Habitat for Humanity is accustomed to challenges. Its entire model — securing land, building with volunteers and often donated materials, with the “sweat equity” of homeowners poured in and a zero-interest mortgage to make it all viable — is a challenge.

Sisters Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Sharlene Weed acknowledged this in her remarks at Friday’s dedication ceremony.

“It’s truly a miracle,” she said. “These houses are a miracle. These houses are impossible.”

And yet, there they were, newly minted homeowners, their family partners and a host of volunteers and community members, watching ribbons taped across entryways as they were sliced through and fluttering to the ground.

Weed recounted the process that led to the creation of the Bluebird Street townhomes. ClearPine developer Peter Hall agreed with the City of Sisters to provide for eight affordable units in the subdivision. Hall also provided landscaping.

A key moment came when James and Sharon Richards posted a $100,000 challenge grant to help boost the project. James lost his battle to cancer and his wife, Sharon, could not attend, but their granddaughter Kennady Vaughn told the assemblage that James would have been deeply gratified to see the results. Having come from an insecure childhood, Vaughn said, “if there was one thing that my grandfather understood, it was the importance of having a safe place to call home.”

Family Partners act as guides for candidates as

they work through the process of becoming Habitat homeowners. Terri Gookin’s Family Partners, Gayla Nelson and Marsha Lewis, recounted the trials they all faced — injuries, illness, and restrictions.

Gookin was under quarantine when Habitat broke ground for her home.

Lewis said the volunteers brought a piece of the groundbreaking to her.

“We bagged (soil) in a ziplock bag and took it to her, so she’d have a bit of her ground,” she said.

Gookin struggled through tears to convey her feelings as she prepared to step into her “forever home.”

“I am overcome with gratitude and love,” she said.

Jan Bottcher and Bob Lawton were Family Partners for the Yateses. Both praised the couple’s hard work and dedication — and most of all, their upbeat spirit of perseverance through delay, and


“These two chose not to focus on distractions and the negative,” Bottcher said. “They were so positive, and such a joy… They’re going to continue to bear the Habitat flag in ClearPine and in our community.”

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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