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Karla Baise just wanted to build a house, not start a movement. But somewhere along the way, she ended up doing both.
After the High Park Fire in Larimer County in 2012, Blaise, the community outreach coordinator for Odell Brewing Company, was eager to find ways for Odell to pitch in and help members of the community who had been displaced from their homes. In 2013, she reached out to Habitat for Humanity but was told that the brewery would need to raise $100,000 to build a house—the standard amount needed for materials and labor. “That was daunting, to say the least,” Baise says.
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She decided to team up with other local breweries for help, facilitating a partnership between Fort Collins brewers and Habitat For Humanity that would soon come to be known as the House That Beer Built. Eight breweries rallied to build a home for a family displaced from the High Park Fire. Since then, Baise’s initial idea sparked a philanthropic revolution: Brewers across the country (as far as Oregon and Texas) have partnered with their local divisions of Habitat for Humanity (HFH) to help build houses for families in need. Here in Colorado, Fort Collins’ program now encompasses 12 local breweries, and the House That Beer Built movement has spread to Longmont, too. Four houses have been completed around the country thus far.
“Someone asked, ‘Can Habitat work with beer?’ [We thought] Why not?” communications manager for Fort Collins Habitat Raquel Martinez, says. “Brewing is such a part of our community, and Habitat is so reliant on our sponsors. It makes so much sense.”
And it makes sense for the Beavers family, this year’s recipient of the three-bedroom, two-bath house that beer is currently building in south-central Fort Collins. Throughout July, each participating brewery held a fundraising event or donated its tips to the cause. The fundraising month culminated on July 31 with an event at the New Belgium Brewing Company headquarters. With over $80,000 already raised, Martinez hopes that construction on the Beavers’ new home will be complete by the end of the year.
Self-described “hard-working, struggling artists,” Kevin and Kyla Beavers have moved four times in the past five years in an attempt to find more affordable housing in Colorado. The moves disrupted their family life (they have two young daughters) and displaced their business, Mandala Dyes, a tie-dye company that sells T-shirts, yoga pants, and flags, mostly at music festivals. While mingling with Fort Collins brewers at the beer tents at one of these festivals, Kevin, a longtime HFH volunteer, realized that his family might be the perfect candidate for the House That Beer Built program.
In June 2015, the Beavers were selected to receive a home. Since then, both of them have put in 100 hours of work on their future dwelling themselves. Martinez was confident the fundraising goal of $100,000 would soon be met and the Beavers would spend their first night at their new home by the end of the year.
On a recent July morning at the construction site of the Beavers’ future house, Baise stood in awe as she watched the brewing community hard at work. “I can’t think of a better way to leverage the power of craft beer and its ability to bring everyone together,” she says.