Kelle Dvorak Vandenberg

Kelle Dvorak Vandenberg

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Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity has formed a strategic partnership with Habitat for Humanity Seattle/King County, which will expand help to services and production of affordable homes for families throughout Kittitas County.

In addition to that partnership, Kittitas County Habitat for Humanity has brought on board a new area director, Kelle Dvorak Vandenberg, who will coordinate volunteer recruitment, plan and oversee local events, serve as liaison to city and county governments, faith groups, and conduct fund development activities.

“Smaller counties are consolidating operations with big, urban organizations at a significant cost savings,” said Vandenberg, who is a 1999 Central Washington University graduate. “King County will be responsible for administration, IT, human resources, accounting/finance/payroll, legal, loan origination, construction and project development, and fund development.

“So, for us, the lights are on, the rent is paid and now we can focus on what is important to the community in Kittitas County.”

The main focus is looking for land for new affordable housing construction, also reviewing some home preservation events and potential critical repair for people within the community. The hope is to bring volunteers together on some projects prior to the end of the year, shifting the focus on bringing the community together in a positive way.

“HopeSource is working on stuff. We’re working on stuff and we’re working hard in moving forward. With the COVID-19, it changed the reality,” she said. “We just have to find ways to continue to help the community.

“We know that we need to build at least 20 units, but with the COVID that’s not going to be an option. So, we are working on providing home repairs for seniors that aren’t able to get out and do the work. We’re looking for land to build on when the time allows and we can get back to building.”

The need for affordable housing in Kittitas County is significant, she said. The average median for a house right now is $348,000, yet the average wage is roughly $53,000, so a person would need to spend more than half their income just to have a home.

“One of the challenges for the 35-to-45 age group. You have people that aren’t necessarily ready to buy a house or they already have a house and it comes down to can they continue to make payments,” Vandenberg said. “For 65 and older, their costs shifts to paying more for health care and medications than their housing.

“Thirty eight percent of the people in Kittitas County are paying more than 50 percent of their salary to housing. These are people just trying to make ends meet and we’re working very hard to provide some solutions to improve the quality of life.”

Vandenberg said she has spent her entire career balancing between corporate development and nonprofit development, it has been a satisfying lifetime of work that has led her to the work of a lifetime with Habitat for Humanity.

“I am honored to represent them in Kittitas County and look forward to getting hammers back in hands and helping people in need within the county,” she said.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at rharwood@kvnews.com

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