An Epic Week for Habitat Vail Valley

Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek Resort employees give back to Habitat Vail Valley

Earlier this month Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, Beaver Creek Resort and Vail Mountain employees worked together to build, and celebrate, home. Vail and Beaver Creek employees gave more than 1000 hours in a one-week period as part of the Gary Shimanowitz Memorial Build Week.

From September 11 to 15, in memoriam of Habitat Vail Valley Board member and Beaver Creek Vice President of Mountain Operations, Gary Shimanowitz, 115-plus employees helped build community, strong foundations and raise walls. The week’s efforts culminated in a Neighborhood Dinner for partners, employees, volunteers and Stratton Flats homeowners and families, sponsored by Vail Resorts.

Just as everyone gathered to raise a wall on home number 7, a ferocious downpour let loose. The 50 or so attendees took cover — in a home that had the walls and roof raised earlier in the week. Standing inside a home, dry from the rain, made clear the need for safe, affordable housing home.

“A big thank you to the Beaver Creek and Vail Mountain employees who dedicated their energy this week to build homes. This week is so special not only because we get to help our community by contributing to these homes, but we also get to celebrate the memory of our coworker, Habitat for Humanity Board Member, and friend, Gary Shimanowitz,” said Nadia Guerriero, SVP and COO of Vail Resorts’ Rockies Region. “Thank you to Habitat for Humanity for paving the way in providing accessible and affordable housing for Eagle County and coordinating this incredible event.”

For years Vail Resorts Epic Promise has been a strong partner of Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, working to help make affordable homeownership a reality for hardworking locals. Beaver Creek Resort and Vail Mountain have supported Habitat Vail Valley through financial contributions and volunteerism.

“Vail Resorts has been a steadfast partner of Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley for as long as I can remember,” says Elyse Howard, director of development. “Their commitment to giving back makes a difference in the lives of the people who live and work in Eagle County. Last year Beaver Creek Resort and Vail Mountain committed $300,000 over 5-years to help us build homes in partnership with the locals who are the fabric of our community,” Howard adds.

Maria “Lula” Esparza, a Habitat partner family shared what her new home means to her and her family. She was losing hope and thought the only way to survive was to move away from the community that had been home for her and her two children since 2010.

“When the news came that we qualified to be a Habitat homeowner, I had already had the idea that the Vail Valley wasn’t home for us anymore. The big plans I had of raising my kids in this community had started to fade away. We struggled to pay rent and were on many waitlists for apartments,” Lula said.

“I used my savings and arranged a cozy, safe and affordable living situation in our camper. Our mental health was declining and my teenager was struggling because of where we were living. He doesn’t want anyone to find out where we are living. Imagine being that young and having to lie to your friends about your address. I couldn’t do that to my precious children.”

Working to build her home and readying to buy it has changed the lives of the Esparzas. “Habitat has given me the opportunity to buy a house that me and my kids can turn into OUR HOME!”

As Lula wrapped up her comments — eyes wet with tears, not rain — the weather changed and Habitat partners raised the wall on a home before the Neighborhood Picnic. As part of Vail Resorts’ partnership, friends and neighbors enjoyed dinner from food trucks, kids’ activities, conversation and community building.

From 2022 through 2024, Habitat Vail Valley has made the audacious plan to double its building production — starting 46 homes in the three-year period. Vail Resorts is part of the $18 million investment into affordable housing. In 2023, there are 24 homes under construction – 16 modular homes in Eagle and 8 in Stratton Flats.

Habitat is more than a home developer; it is a community builder. Habitat homeowners work 250 sweat equity hours building their homes and the homes of their neighbors. As they build, they become friends working together, creating the neighborhood where they will raise their families.