Serving up an extra helping of homes

April 9, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

Benefit dinner will help church build homes in Mexico

Every summer for the past 13 years, volunteers from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church have traveled to Tecate, Mexico, to help build family homes.

Teens, college students and adults spend about a week working beneath the hot summer sun, to make progress on a home that will make a world of difference for a family in need.

Photos Contributed Above, the Arce-Roman family stands in front of their current home in Tecate, Mexico. Volunteers from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church will help build the family a new home this summer. At left, Volunteers from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church stand in front of a home they built in Tecate, Mexico, in 2011.

Photos Contributed
Volunteers from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church stand in front of a home they built in Tecate, Mexico, in 2011.

“Over the last decade, we’ve probably built, along with other groups, 15 to 17 homes, for people that were living in shacks at one time, and now they’re living in a nice home,” said Jeff Matson, one of the trip’s organizers.

It takes a collection of churches about four to five weeks to construct a small, three-bedroom home with proper plumbing, framing, wiring and roofing.

For families to qualify for a house, the homeowners must first commit to staying in Tecate, have a job and buy a small parcel of land where the volunteers will build the house.

Tecate, a border town with a population of about 60,000, has a very high percentage of residents living below the poverty line, Matson said. A worker is likely to make only $5 to $10 a day.

Despite living in some meager circumstances, the families in Tecate possess a joy of life not often seen in the United States, Matson said.

“We have seen year after year that the families we serve in Tecate, while seemingly without so many of what we believe are necessities of life, are indeed happy,” he said. “They seem to have been able to adapt their lifestyle around what they have, not what they wish they could have.”

It is not cheap to send the volunteers down to Mexico for what Matson called a “life-changing experience.” He estimated it takes about $750 per person, not including airfare, to make the trip happen. The church usually sends anywhere from 15 to 20 people.

That money pays for food and vehicle rentals, but the majority of it goes toward helping pay for construction supplies to build the homes.

With 17 people signed up to head to Mexico this summer, the group needs about $13,000. The church hopes to make a dent in that amount by hosting an April 17 benefit dinner.

The community is invited to partake in the church’s International Dinner, where spaghetti, Greek salad and an assortment of cookies from different countries will be served.

There is no charge for the dinner, but contributions will be accepted to help finance the cost of the Mexico trip. Diners are free to come anytime during the two-hour dinner held at the church.

Last year, the event made $1,200 and the hope is to do the same this year, Matson said.

“Any donation that you can give is received gratefully, not so much by us, but by the people in Mexico,” he said. “Share in the joy of providing a safe, comfortable, decent home for people who don’t have a whole lot.”


If you go

International Dinner

5:30-7:30 p.m. April 17

Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church

24850 S.E. Issaquah-Fall City Road


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