A new home for a new life
Manuel Tello, who has volunteered hundreds of hours building Habitat houses for others, is about to get a Habitat home of his own.
But that was not his intention when he started volunteering.
"My brother and I were at church and the bulletin said a Catholic group was going to help sheetrock Habitat House No. 3, so we decided to help," Manuel said. "Fritz (the Habitat building director) got our phone number and asked us what we did and we told him floor covering. And I've been doing flooring for Habitat ever since," he added.
Having professional floormen on its volunteer list was a boon to Jefferson County Habitat. So, even after he moved and changed his phone number, Manuel joked, "Fritz tracked me down and wouldn't let me get away."
Manuel came to Madras in 1997 to stay with his brother and help him with his flooring business. As someone who was recovering from past drug and alcohol addictions Manuel was trying to start a new life in a new environment.
"I went to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, and since I didn't have any (other) friends here I kept going. That's where I met Jamasa," he said, adding, "Now we're both in recovery. She has been clean (drug free) six years as of last March, and in December I will have been clean six years."
They were married May 20, 2000, and settled into a singlewide trailer at City Trailer Park in Madras. Then three years ago, their daughter Maria was born.
After his brother decided to move his flooring business to Medford, Manuel stayed in the business in Madras as a subcontractor until last November when he was hired to work swing shift at Bright Wood Corporation.
Still volunteering with Habitat in his free time, Manuel said, "Fritz kept hounding me to apply for a house myself, and finally I did." The Tellos will be receiving House No. 10.
Of all the Habitat homes he's worked on, Manuel put in the most work on House No. 8, for the Benham family, who it turned out will soon be their neighbors. House 8, along with houses 9 and 10 (which were donated resort homes moved to Madras from Tumalo) are all located near the corner of J and Second streets.
When the Tellos heard they had been selected as a Habitat family, they immediately put their singlewide trailer up for sale.
"We put it up for sale so we wouldn't have to pay space rent, and thought it would take a while, but it sold right away," Jamasa related. That unexpected occurrence caused them to have to move in with Jamasa's parents in February.
Besides being a mom, Jamasa has been busy with volunteer activities of her own. For several years she has been on the board of Jefferson County Housing Opportunities and Personal Empowerment (HOPE).
The HOPE group opened Oxford House in Madras as transitional living quarters for men in recovery from substance abuse.
"After treatment, people need a place to go to avoid the same friends and environment they had before, so they can stay clean," Jamasa said, speaking from experience.
Now, she said the group is looking at purchasing a four-plex to house women in recovery and their children. "It will help the women get back on their feet," she said.
Jamasa also has prepared meals at the Community Kitchen once a month for four years, she currently works 10 hours a week at the Madras Area Community Action Team office, and earns sweat-equity hours for their Habitat house by working at the Madras Habitat office. One of her projects is building a Web site for Jefferson County Habitat.
The Tellos have earned 300 of the required 500 hours of sweat-equity toward their home, and Manuel admitted it feels strange to be working on his own house.
"Before it was more of a self-satisfaction thing, because I was helping other people. Now I'm helping myself and it's not as satisfying," he said. However, Jamasa pointed out that being all squeezed into one house with her parents has made them appreciate having their own place more. They would like to move in by the end of September, but said the work might not be finished until Christmas.
To other low income families in need of housing Manuel had this advice, "I urge people, if they feel they have a desire to apply for a house, don't hold back, at least try it. Even if you don't get accepted, you can always try again later."
"And, we can always use more volunteer helpers," he mentioned, saying he intends to continue helping.
Pleased that the Tellos will receive a home, Habitat President Sharon Marvel noted, "Manuel is our first dedicated, longtime volunteer that applied to become a homeowner, and volunteered hundreds and hundreds of hours before he applied. When his house is done, he will still be out there volunteering."