With groups of student intern volunteers, the nonprofit Community Rebuilds has been building energy-efficient, affordable strawbale homes since 2010 in Moab and other areas in southeast Utah and western Colorado. The organization projects that by the end of 2020, it will have collaboratively built 43 homes for lower-income residents and educated over 300 student interns.
As in many regions with tourism-based economies, workers in Moab struggle to afford the high cost of housing in the area. While for-profit contractors can make substantial profits by building housing to be sold at market rate, Community Rebuilds does not – its mission is to create sustainable, affordable housing for Moab’s workforce.
“‘Community’ is in our name,” said Alivia Michalski, the fundraising coordinator for Community Rebuilds. “We’re pretty community-oriented.”
And, Michalski said, Community Rebuilds is now in need of some assistance from the community as it moves through setbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to get more community members involved because we don’t have as big of a build team,” Michalski said. “We’re calling on Moab to help us out.”
The three builds currently underway were essentially halted at the start of the pandemic, and have resumed with added safety measures – including fewer student intern volunteers. Yet the two of the builds require an added level of labor, as they are being built to meet an advanced green-building certification called the Living Building Challenge. For example, Michalski said, Community Rebuilds has been calling manufacturers to make sure every single product used in these builds meets the ethical and environmental guidelines of the Living Building Challenge – a highly time-consuming, though worthwhile, process.
The homes being built now are scheduled to be completed in October, and another build is on deck to start that same month.
To help Community Rebuilds complete the current builds on time so homeowners can move in, Michalski said, it is hosting Community Build Days on Saturdays starting with an instruction period for volunteers at 9 a.m. Volunteers will learn useful building skills – such as how to mix and apply plaster, and how to use tools – as they participate in the construction process. There is no set end time to the event; any time volunteers can give is appreciated.
Volunteers should bring a mask, gloves, and a lot of water, as well as sunscreen, Michalski said. She asked that volunteers contact Community Rebuilds to RSVP.
The first Community Build Day will be on Saturday, Sept. 12 and will start at 9 a.m. The work will be on the Living Building Challenge homes which are located at 808 Millcreek Drive, Moab. Future Build Day events will be posted on the Community Rebuilds Facebook page, Michalski said.
Resford Rouzer – a Moab native who now works for the Moab-based outdoor education nonprofit Canyonlands Field Institute – is one of the homeowners whose house is currently under construction on Millcreek Drive. He said Community Rebuilds volunteer events are a great way to meet fun people and “know what a really important organization in town is doing.”
“It’s a great way to see the process and meet the people,” he said.
Michalski said Community Rebuilds is also seeking the donation of materials and funds from individuals and businesses in the community.
“We do work for residents of our town but are funded, for the most part, by the federal government,” Michalski said. “Although we couldn’t exist without them, we want to rely less on those restricted federal funds and more on the community that we are providing a service for.”
She said some local businesses are already contributing, such as Monument Waste Services, which collects trash and recycling from build sites for free, and Moonflower Community Cooperative, which donates several meals per year for interns and staff.
She pointed out that Community Rebuilds plans to build 24 more houses in the next two years, which creates clientele for businesses such as title companies in addition to providing housing for workers. She said Community Rebuilds is seeking partnerships especially with businesses that benefit from the creation of this housing.
Community Rebuilds has also created a “wish list” of items needed by student intern volunteers and homeowners. The wish list currently includes an exterior door with jambs, a bathroom vanity, upper kitchen cabinets, a blender, perennial plants and fruit trees, a pickup truck and the transportation of two bathtubs from Salt Lake City to Moab in the first week of September.
To RSVP to Community Build Day or to donate materials, call Community Rebuilds at 435-260-0501 or email Michalski at firstname.lastname@example.org. Monetary donations may be made at communityrebuilds.org/make-a-donation. Community Rebuilds is a nonprofit; donations are tax-deductible