When Pat Loftus' husband died, she was left with 12 children to raise alone. Widowed and foreclosed upon, she and her children were forced to move several times a year.
After all, who wanted to rent a home to a family with 12 children?Then Loftus read an article about Habitat for Humanity in the newspaper and wondered if there might be a way to finally have a home for her family. She called Marilyn Curtis, a Salt Lake Habitat co-director, and Curtis' husband, Bob. The house-hunting process began.
Loftus says it took several months of searching for a home in Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete County.
"It looked so ugly at first that the kids didn't even want get out of the car to see it," Loftus told those gathered Friday for the Rocky Mountain Habitat for Humanity's second annual regional meeting in Ogden. People attended the session from Utah, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and from Tanzania and Zaire.
The Loftus family moved into the Mt. Pleasant home and immediately began to make much-needed repairs. Soon the family was joined by members of Habitat, who came to put a new roof on and tear down a dilapidated barn.
Neighbors watched and wondered who was going to come and put the house in good form. When Loftus told a neighbor that these were all volunteers, the neighbor said, "My word. You have just restored my faith in humanity."
The teenagers who became involved in the remodeling project had a noticeable change of heart. On their own, the teens brought the Loftus family a Thanksgiving dinner with all of the trimmings.
"You can get so comfortable in your own world that you don't notice other people are out there struggling. Thank you for noticing and caring," Loftus told the audience, with tears rolling down her cheeks.
David Rowe, president of Habitat for Humanity's international board, keynoted the meeting, urging everyone to share the cross of providing shelter for the homeless with their neighbors.
Rowe headed a volunteer work camp in India last summer and has worked with Habitat internationally for eight years.
Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide organization of volunteers from all walks of life and religions. Initial capital for its projects is provided through no-interest loans. Then houses are built or renovated for people who do not qualify for conventional bank loans.
Most labor is a cooperative effort of volunteers and the families themselves.
Each family makes a small down payment and gets a mortgage just like other homeowners, but the loan then covers the cost of the house without added interest charges. Those monthly house payments go into a revolving fund to help other needy families.
Last year, Habitat raised $18 million worldwide to help homeless families in the United States and 25 other countries.
Ted Swisher, director of national operations, said that in one project, in Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, Calif., people from both countries are working together to build homes on both sides of the international border. The goal is to eventually build 100 homes per week there.
Representatives from several northern Utah community churches pledged their support to the worldwide Habitat for Humanity effort.
Those in northern Utah interested in the program should write: Habitat for Humanity, Northern Utah, P.O. Box 456, 546 W. Third South, Brigham City UT 84302.