Governor works with Habitat for Humanity volunteers on King memorial day

“Gov. Gary Locke helped My Pham, left, sheet rock his Tacoma Habitat for Humanity home on Monday. It was a day on not off work for many volunteers statewide in celebration of the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.–celebrating through service. (Photo by Bonnie West) On Monday morning, Gov. Gary Locke joined business and civil leaders, including Frank Moss, Tacoma’s former mayor, to work with volunteers of the Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity on a home being built for the My Pham family on 53rd Street in Tacoma.The Habitat volunteers, who normally have Mondays off, volunteered their extra day in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Memorial Day.After describing the day as a day on, not a day off, for Washington citizens to volunteer in their communities across the state, Gov. Locke thanked Habitat for their work in providing affordable housing to residents in their community.He said that Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, wrote, The greatest birthday gift my husband could receive is if people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds celebrated the holiday by performing individual acts of kindness through service to others. Dr. King said, `Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve,’ he added, and that’s what’s taking place here today, people serving others within their community.Remember, we’re not building a house, we’re building a dream home! one of the Habitat managers told the volunteers with a big grin as they picked up their tools, So take your time!For My Pham, his wife, Diep, and their daughter Nguyen, the structure on 53rd Street will certainly be their dream home after the nightmare of imprisonment Pham experienced after the war in Vietnam. He was imprisoned for 7 1/2 years by the North Vietnamese for having been in the South Vietnamese military, and still has physical problems because of the experience.I was sick when I was a prisoner, Pham said. The housing wasn’t good and we didn’t have all we needed.After being freed from imprisonment, Pham was able to travel to the United States in 1991 after gaining an American sponsor.He said that Habitat for Humanity has brought him, A new life. My family is very happy to be Americans.His daughter Nguyen said that she is entering her first year at the University of Washington at Tacoma on a Promise Scholarship.Having this house means a lot to us, she said. We couldn’t have purchased a home without their help. The Pham home will join five others in the neighborhood that were constructed in a Blitz Build week in September of 2000 by five local church denominations partnered with Habitat. The Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity (as a separate 501(c)(3)organization), became affiliated with Habitat for Humanity International in 1985. Its goal is to eliminate substandard housing by working with volunteers and families in need to build simple, decent homes in the area.The Habitat’s executive director, Mike Madden, said he’d been involved in volunteering with Habitat since 1992. I got involved because a fellow at my church spoke on Habitat and it sounded like a fun thing to do and a worthwhile mission, he said. It combined fun with doing good. My only carpentry skills were home fix-it-up projects, but that’s typical for many of our volunteers. They come with limited skills and are trained.When asked, Madden said he felt the reason why people dedicate so much of their time to Habitat with Humanity is because This is their local mission work. And many in the area just want to give back to the community. No matter which you are, it is helping families help themselves that’s worthwhile, and seeing the results of your labors go up. Building a house is rewarding.A man who will be a neighbor to the Pham family, To Lam, stood on the Pham property watching the scurry of activity with his daughter, Sopheak Lam, 9, who was finishing the last of her apple.To Lam, who lives across the street, said Habitat had made his family, which is made up of his three boys and wife, Den Lam, Very Happy. They helped us with a home we wouldn’t have had.It’s fun to have our home! Sopheak piped up through some bites of apple. When we lived in an apartment on the second floor, I couldn’t jump. Now no one tells me I can’t jump! Through Sept. 2000, there have been 50 families, consisting of 89 adults and 204 children, housed by Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity. Every Habitat affiliate follows a nondiscriminatory policy of family selection. Neither race nor religion is a factor in choosing Habitat homeowner families.The family’s are selected according to need, their willingness to become partners in the Habitat program, and their ability to repay the no-interest loan. As of July 2000 a three-bedroom, 1,024-square-foot Habitat house in Tacoma cost the homeowner approximately $65,000. Families are required to put 300 hours of sweat equity work into their own house and 200 on houses of other Habitat families. For more information about becoming a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or other questions, contact their offices at P.O. Box 7124, Tacoma, 98406, or through phone or fax at: 253/627-5626. “