The Red River Valley Habitat for Humanity received a $200,000 grant from the Engelstad Foundation in June 2020 to fund the construction of its new home for 2021, which broke ground on its five-month-long construction Tuesday.

Habitat for Humanity builds homes to provide affordable housing to those in need across America along with other efforts to build communities.

One of Red River Valley Habitat for Humanity’s two part-time employees is Executive Director Marisa Sauceda, who began working there in 2019. She said the organization had never received a grant from the Engelstad Foundation until last year.

“It was one of those things where I was at an event for another nonprofit, and I just ran into somebody who works for the (Engelstad Foundation),” Sauceda said. “He said, ‘You should apply! We have so much money that we have to give away, so just apply and see what happens.’”

Sauceda said the application process was easy and only took a few minutes to complete. From there, the Red River Valley Habitat for Humanity received a grant that covered the construction cost of its 2021 house.

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“We were so excited,” Sauceda said. “I wasn’t even sure if we should ask for that much money, but I was like, ‘You know what? What’s the worst that could happen, that they’ll say no and that they could only give us $50,0000,’ or some other amount. But, in a month there was a check in the mail, and we were just floored.”

The Engelstad Foundation is a nonprofit 501 established in 2002 to continue the philanthropic work of its namesake Ralph Engelstad, who died the same year. It donates money in the form of grants to nonprofit organizations within the United States.

Sauceda said if it weren’t for the grant, she would have no idea where the funding would come from for the construction.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Sauceda said. “It probably would have taken a lot longer. Instead of having all the construction plans set right away from the beginning before we even started, we probably would have had to take it step by step.”

Normally, the Red River Valley Habitat for Humanity has to raise money individually for each step of the construction process. First, money would have been raised for the excavation. Then comes the concrete, and so on.

This kind of schedule has caused the organization problems in the past. Schedules become more flexible, while the people in need who were chosen to occupy the new house have to wait.

“We usually get that money from community donations, small fundraisers that we might host throughout the year or just (receiving) smaller grants,” Sauceda said. “It’s hard to get a grant for $200,000. That’s really high. Most of them are capped at $50,000."

Those who need assistance can apply to be the recipient of a Habitat for Humanity house, but there is an interview process, as well as standards each applicant must meet to be considered. The organization considers their financial status as well as their housing status to determine eligibility, and there were only four eligible applications submitted last year.

“If they already own a nice, beautiful new home that’s safe and up to code, but their mortgage payment is just a little too much for them, then that’s not somebody who qualifies,” Sauceda said. “We’re looking for someone who is in the middle to low income brackets and is in need of housing. Maybe the place they rent is rundown, or maybe they do own a house and they can’t afford repairs and things like that.”