‘It feels pretty amazing’: Minnesota community rallies behind a new home and a new start

Aitkin County’s Habitat for Humanity chapter celebrates its most recent home build

Christy Rian is proud of her new home in northern Minnesota.

So, it seems, is most of Aitkin County.

“It seems like everybody and their brother watched this house go up in Aitkin County,” says Ann Schwartz, executive director of the county's Habitat for Humanity chapter.

Aitkin County HFH found the dollars and coordinated the volunteer labor for Rian’s new home, a project the chapter completes on average once every two years—funds permitting, of course.

“If you take a look at Christy’s situation, she moved back to the United States in 2016 from the Middle East to escape an unhealthy marriage and, really, she started from scratch,” says Schwartz.

Habitat for Humanity, established in 1976 and now operating in more than 70 countries worldwide, partners with working, low-income families, who purchase their home through an interest-free mortgage with no down payment. All Habitat families are required to put at least 300 hours of “sweat equity,” or volunteer labor, into their home.

The organization’s motto has long been “a hand up, not a handout”—and that was the scenario for Rian. In just a year-and-a-half after arriving back in Minnesota, she obtained her GED and secured a full-time job.

“She really persevered,” notes Schwartz.

As happens elsewhere, Aitkin County HFH aims to give people like Rian the chance for a fresh start when life doesn’t go as planned—not only building homes, but operating A Brush With Kindness, a program that assists residents with minor repairs to their homes.


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“We usually come in contact with people who have had adversity in their life but are at a high point where they are ready to make a permanent change,” says Schwartz.

With a ticket price of around $130,000 per home, Aitkin County HFH takes extra creative steps—implementing programs that resell donated appliances, and drawing up wish lists consisting of construction tools.

Enbridge is committed to being a good neighbor in the communities near our operations and projects, including the Line 3 Replacement Project through northern Minnesota. Our recent $2,500 donation to Habitat for Humanity in Aitkin County helped fund the construction of Rian’s home.

Rian and her four daughters received the keys and moved in at the end of November 2018.

With the burden of finding a safe living space lifted from Rian’s shoulders, she says she can now focus on her primary full-time job—raising her daughters.

“They’re just happy to have their own rooms now,” says Rian. “I’m really excited for their future. I know they’re all going to be something.”

The support from her girls—noticed by Schwartz, too—has made the difficult transition much more manageable.

“The girls know it’s going to take a long time to pay the house off,” says Rian, “and my oldest said to me: ‘Mom, once I get a job, you’re going to be paying it off a lot sooner.’ ”

(TOP PHOTO: Christy Rian and her children hold candles to bless their new home in Minnesota's Aitkin County.)