Celebrating Home at Grace Avenue

A community grows together thanks to a partnership between Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, Eagle County Schools and numerous business partners

On a warm Thursday night earlier in September, 12 families celebrated home at Grace Avenue in Gypsum. About five years ago Eagle County School District donated land to Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, with the intention of helping school district employees find safe, affordable housing.

magdalena campos grace 2021
Magdalena and her daughter received the keys to their Habitat home.

The intention was fulfilled, first in 2020 when six families moved into their homes. Six more families are readying to move in within the next few months. In total 29 children will be part of the Grace Avenue neighborhood.

“Grace: A free unmerited gift; that we are a path of in its acceptance. We at Habitat are graced, honored, in an earthly way by being able to connect with so many amazing individuals (co-workers, volunteers, homeowners, sponsors and donors) via our mission to help local families achieve strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. All of the gifts that allow us to do our important work, along with the courage of our homeowners, are gifts accepted and grown. This neighborhood will be visible evidence of it all and of God’s grace in our lives,” Mary Lynn Staley said in 2018 when the site was dedicated.

Grace Avenue came about thanks to partnerships, collaboration and hard work. Attendees were able tour the homes that were built, thanks to Habitat’s many partners. Elvia Gonzalez, a homeowner and facilities manager at ECS, shared how her home has changed her family’s lives.

“Living in my home has given my family stability and security. I don’t have to worry about living in a roommate situation to make ends meet. It’s allowed us to have more family time together. Coming home now has a new meaning to us,” she said.

Shelley Jarnot, ECS board member, thanked Habitat Vail Valley for the partnership—very nearly an unprecedented one nationwide that fulfills ECS’ mission of providing housing for ECS staff. She also announced that ECS and HFHVV have recently agreed on the terms of a new project on 3rd Street in Eagle.

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Elvia shares how her Habitat home changed her family’s life.

“We hope it’s the first many projects partnering,” she said. “Sometimes the work on the school board can feel all about policy and far from the lives of kids. Your wonderful event was a tangible reminder of why we do the work we do. Habitat should take great pride in the unique partnership that was created with the district, and in being a leader and example to help other Habitat locations to start this important work.”

Father Jose Maria Quera blessed the families, the homes and those who helped make the houses a reality, saying together we as a community do great things—we do the hard work, from a place of abundance, so families have a roof over their heads.

The neighborhood is so much more than a cluster of homes. The homeowners watch out for each other, help each other and have created a community. Children race up and down the street on bikes and scooters with dogs trailing behind. There’s a lightness that comes from the families—it’s easy to see that they are all home.

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley is the only builder of permanently affordable homes in the Eagle River Valley. Now, more than ever, it’s necessary to help hardworking local families find strength, stability and self-reliance through a home. In July, Habitat broke ground on its 100th home, housing more than 300 children. Families work alongside volunteers and Habitat staff to build their homes. Learn more: www.habitatvailvalley.org.