Steamboat Springs Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity International, offered a challenge last week to the people of Routt County.
"I say to you tonight, by what date are you going to make sure everybody in this county has a decent place to live?" Fuller asked an audience of around 100 people who had gathered Thursday at Lake Catamount for a Habitat for Humanity fund-raiser.
During an hour-long speech littered with applause, laughter and inspiration, Fuller extended Habitat for Humanity's 21st Century Challenge to Routt County's Habitat chapter. Fuller pointed to his hometown of Americus, Ga., where he said in 1992 the community set a goal of eliminating all substandard housing. In 2000, Fuller said the goal was reached.
"Nobody in this rich country should be living in bad housing," he said. "We have resources in this country. Even in this bad economy, we are still incredibly wealthy in this nation."
Under Fuller's leadership, the international non-profit organization and its affiliates have built more than 100,000 homes for families who could otherwise not afford a decent home.
One of those homes was completed last fall in Steamboat Springs.
Beverly and Neil Marchman and their four children moved into an 1,100-square-foot house that took four months and 300 volunteers to build.
Thursday's fundraiser, which raised around $2,400, will be used for the local organization's second project, a duplex in Steamboat's West End Village.
Habitat plans to acquire three lots in the affordable housing development and has raised $150,000 to purchase the land.
The three duplex lots would provide six housing units and the first family has already been chosen Ellen Klare, a single mother of two.
Habitat is planning to start building the first duplex early next summer. The duplexes will be stick-built houses unlike most of the manufactured homes planned for the site.
"We realistically don't see how we could do more than one duplex per summer. If we found out that we had a greater number of volunteers that could change," said the Rev. Larry Oman, who is the board president of the local Habitat for Humanity.
Oman said Fuller's speech was motivational for the audience, many of whom contributed to the first house.
"I think (Fuller) really has been a great visionary with the whole Habitat idea," Oman said. "He has a great gift to inspire people. He inspires people to keep working at it."
Fuller's message was littered with inspiration as he told the crowd that underneath the tent the resources existed to ensure everyone in the county had a decent place to live.
Although Routt County might not resemble the slums and downtrodden areas Habitat works with in the inner cities and third world countries, Fuller said the need for Habitat is still here.
"People living in a beautiful place like this drive down the road and think there is no need in this community," he said. "Everyone is doing great, until you look underneath the surface.
"Some of the most talented and wonderful people don't have a big bank account. Know the value of a good plumber, a good teacher, and a good bus driver."