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Almost home for the holidays

T12.19.2017 -- Steve Kuchera -- 122017.N.DNT.TreeC3 -- Jessica VanHolbeck takes a picture of husband Brandon and sons Corbin, 4, and Logan, 1, next to the Christmas tree on the porch of their Habitat for Humanity house on Tuesday. Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity and its partners decorated the tree for the family. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

Jessica and Brandon VanHolbeck are stretching their Christmas season out this year. She'll get a big yard for their boys to play in and space for a garden. He'll get a third bedroom to move their youngest, 1-year-old Logan, into. Corbin, 4, has visions of a new blue bedroom dancing in his head.

They just have to wait a few extra days.

The Superior family is set to move into their new home at 710 Weeks Ave. three days after Christmas, the newest success story for Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity.

"It means a lot," Brandon VanHolbeck said. "We just never thought we'd be able to get into a house, to actually be able to own a house. I have a lot of medical issues, so that's a big factor."

The family got the news they'd qualified for the home the day VanHolbeck, who has type 1 diabetes, was scheduled for a pancreas transplant.

"To be able to get into something like this is amazing," he said.

It's the second Habitat for Humanity home build completed this year in Superior. Another build is scheduled for the spring in the vicinity of North 19th Street and Oakes Avenue.

"These projects are just incredible," said executive director David Clanaugh. "We build these houses for less than half the cost of a private developer, but we still need help."

Partners bring in labor, materials and volunteer hours. Donors provide revenue.

"It's like a three-legged stool — materials, labor, cash," Clanaugh said.

While there will be some landscaping and exterior work to do in the spring, the family will close on the house next week.

It's become a familiar sight to them. As the biggest stakeholders, the VanHolbecks have poured more than 800 hours of sweat equity into the home.

"I'm here pretty much every day I can," Brandon VanHolbeck said.

Even Corbin is excited.

"He actually goes to school a block down, so every time we drive by, 'There's my new house, let's stop and look. Let's see what they did,'" Jessica VanHolbeck said.

Tuesday, the family partnered with members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 242 to light a Christmas tree on the porch of the nearly-finished home.

Corbin took time out from attempting to make snow angels in the packed snow to flip the switch with apprentice Dwayne Fry and union president Darik Carlson.

The union provided free labor and materials for the home build through a fund put together by contractors and electricians to give back to the community. The money has been used for past work at the Proctor hockey rink, area youth baseball fields and habitat projects.

"We do electrical work, it's what we do and whenever we can use it to give back to the community, we do," Carlson said.

The wiring for the house was mostly completed in a day.

"Generally you try and get as many people here as you can on a Saturday," Fry said. "Once you get 15 to 20 electricians here it doesn't take long."

It's a chance to make a mark.

"For a lot of guys it's just something to take pride in, you know, being able to help and give back," Fry said. "And it's also nice getting out, meeting other people you wouldn't normally work with."

It takes an incredible mix of partners to build a home, Clanaugh said, from businesses and trades professionals to volunteers.

"And it has a huge impact way beyond this house," he said.

The tax base and housing stock improves, families are more connected to the community and volunteers connect to the community and each other.

"So it's not just building a house, it's building the type of community that we really need in this day and age," Clanaugh said.

For the VanHolbeck's, it's a yard, a bedroom, a home to call their own.

"The best Christmas present," Jessica VanHolbeck said.

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