Volunteers needed to build house for Wadena family

Little Round Still in downtown Wadena will host an informational open house from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, for Lakes Area Habitat For Humanity where people can learn more about the build.

Guevara family with dog
Parents Pedro and Kim Guevara sit behind their daughters Angel, left, and Kaylynn.
Contributed / Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity

WADENA — There’s no place like home, as members of the Guevara family hope to soon learn for themselves.

But the Wadena family needs the community’s help to build the three-bedroom, one-bathroom home. The 1,100-square-foot home will be constructed almost entirely by volunteers.

“We are inviting any individuals and groups — any church, nonprofits like the Lions — just anybody who wants to be involved in this project to sit down with us,” said Heidi Gould, volunteer coordinator for Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity.

Little Round Still in downtown Wadena will host an informational open house from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, for the Brainerd-based nonprofit where the community can learn more about the build at 724 Lincoln Ave SE.

“We’re going to talk about how they can be involved,” Gould said. “We're going to talk about things like fundraising options to help, volunteer options on the build itself."


Heidi Gould headshot
Heidi Gould
Contributed / Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity

The Guevara family wants to remain in the city limits of Wadena because of relatives in the area. Matriarch Kim (Landwehr) Guevara is a lifelong resident and a native of Wadena.

“She wants their two daughters to be raised in the same town, close to grandpas and grandmas,” said Kevin Pelkey, executive director of Lakes Area Habitat For Humanity.

Kim Guevara was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years ago. The chronic disease of the central nervous system is progressive and the family needs a single-story dwelling where she can navigate the planned home in Wadena without tripping hazards.

“When we do these outlying communities, we really do rely on the communities, themselves, to step up and help us build these homes,” Gould said.

Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity is a faith-based organization and bills itself on “building houses, building hope in Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard and Wadena counties.” Construction on the Guevara family home was supposed to start last year.

“We had a very, very difficult time finding a build site in Wadena,” Pelkey said. “It was so late in the season and by the time we did (find a site) we could not get it started, so now that it's warming back up our plan is that — weather permitting — we will be at the site (soon).”

Kevin Pelkey headshot
Kevin Pelkey
Contributed / Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity

The Brainerd-based nonprofit expanded its geographical reach in 2021 in its effort to provide affordable housing in Wadena County, along with Crow Wing, Cass and Hubbard counties.

“Back in 2022, we did finish a house in Sebeka, which is in Wadena County,” Pelkey said of the house on Wells Avenue West, where construction on that home began in 2021.


Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity completed that 1,000-square-foot, three-bedroom Sebeka home with a detached garage, so the previously vacant property is now occupied by Tiffani and Brandon York, who pay property taxes, according to Pelkey.

Previously, the last time a Habitat for Humanity home was built in Wadena was more than a decade ago; the former Leaf River Habitat for Humanity organization come to an end in 2012. It had worked to bring affordable housing options to Wadena and East Otter Tail counties.

“They’re on the lower end of the income scale,” Pelkey said of the members of the Guevara family, which has never owned a home.

Guevara Family.jpg
The Guevara family includes parents Pedro and Kim and daughters Kaylynn, left, and Angel.
Contributed photo

Pelkey has previously said construction material cost for the Wadena build is estimated at $130,000. He added the appraised value may be closer to $165,000, but Habitat for Humanity will underwrite a chunk of the home’s cost to provide the family with a loan that is manageable.

“Kim has MS, which is creating physical barriers in that there are very few places that can accommodate her rapidly changing needs, so the house we are planning and have designed will be fully accommodating of her current and future needs,” Pelkey said.

A family applies to Habitat for Humanity and, if chosen, receives a no-interest loan on a 30-year mortgage. The payment is also based on the family’s income.

Pelkey said service groups and other volunteers will be needed to build the Guevara family home. Funds are also needed to help pay for the construction as well as to pay the subcontractors that will be needed to complete some portions of the build.

“We sub out certain parts of the home — like HVAC and electrical, shingling the roof — but for the most part, the house is built by volunteers from start to finish,” Gould said.


Volunteers are key if the house is expected to be completed this year, according to Gould, and a common misconception is that volunteers must be skilled in construction, but they do need to be 16 years or older.

“‘No experience required’ — that's what I always tell my volunteers,” Gould said. “Our construction supervisor is really good about showing you what you're doing that day. And of course, it changes day by day what we're doing.”

Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity’s mission statement is to ensure that “everyone, everywhere has at least a simple, decent place to call home.” And the community of Wadena can learn more about the Wadena build for the Guevara family at Tuesday’s open house at Little Round Still.

“This is just kind of our way to get the word out in the community that this build is happening, and we need their help to get the build done,” Gould said.

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I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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