'Fast Five' build dreams


ALAMOSA — They’re not called the “Fast Five” for nothing.

Determined to realize their homeownership dreams as soon as possible, five future homeowners are pushing themselves through every waking moment to finish building their own homes in the Montaña Azul Estates in Alamosa as soon as possible.

Part of the Community Resources and Housing Development Corporation (CRHDC) “self help” program that has built more than 250 homes in Alamosa alone over the years, these five families represent one of the many groups realizing their dream of home ownership — through their own “sweat equity.”

Required through personal time and enlisting friends and family to put in 30 hours a week, each family is motivated to literally build their dreams.

“This group works more than that,” said Field Coordinator Trish Goodnight. She said they have lived up to the name they chose for their group, “Fast Five.” They have already caught up to the group that started before them.

The “Fast Five” actually started construction around New Year’s and should be in their homes by May. In this group are Brandee Mondragon, Cherie Sanchez, Angelica Gallegos, Shandon Navares and Robert Jaramillo. These future homeowners run the gamut from a single woman who is a recent college graduate to single mothers working nights to support their families and coming to the construction site during the day.

“I don’t do this for myself,” said Cherie Sanchez, single mother of three who works nights at Wal-Mart. “I do this for them.” Her youngest is in second grade, and her oldest is in high school preparing for college. She said she plans to stay in this house at least until her youngest finishes high school.

“My kids are good,” she said proudly.

At 35 she has pulled herself out of a debt her ex-husband left her and now has a car and soon will have a house.

Like her neighbor, Brandee Mondragon also works nights, pulling shifts as a CNA at the San Luis Care Center while raising two boys on her own and spending her days and weekends building their future house.

“We go through a lot of energy drinks,” she said.

She added, “I just want a nice home for my boys. They deserve it.”

Her oldest son turned 11 on Friday, and her youngest son is 9.

She and Cherie were actually neighbors already but hadn’t really spoken to each other until signing up for the self-help program. Now they are friends as well as neighbors, a common occurrence in the program that requires the families to work together on each other’s homes.

“It’s pretty cool. You make new friends,” Cherie said. “None of us knew each other in the beginning. Now we all talk and have lunch together.”

Some of them already knew people who lived in the neighborhood, which grows with each group of homebuilders, and they have become close to the other families in their group. Some had heard about the program through friends or coworkers who built homes.

Brandee said her aunt built a self-help home 20 years ago, so “I have known about it for a while.”

She added that she’s enjoyed learning construction skills through the process and conquered her fear of heights to work on the roofs.

The youngest participant at age 26, Angelica Gallegos is single with no children (but has a dog), but she began building her dream early. She just finished college and works at the hospital in Alamosa.

“My parents did this when they were younger,” she said. “I followed in their footsteps. It’s been good. It’s a lot of work. My dad helps me.”

Like her teammates, she comes over to the job site after work and on weekends.

Cherie said her father has helped her, too, and they have reconnected through the project. He drives from Canon City on weekends to help her.

“It’s been good,” she said.

The women who were on the job site Friday afternoon all agreed that it is a lot of hard work, but they have a goal in mind that keeps them going.

They are able to complete much of the construction work themselves from foundations to roofs, but CRHDC contracts out some of the more specialized tasks such as drywall, plumbing and electrical.

Most of their floor plans are similar, so that has helped them to move along more quickly as well. Four of the five homes are four-bedroom with Angelica’s home being three bedrooms, and all have two bathrooms. Goodnight explained that most of the self-help homes are in the range of 1,500 square feet, but families have choices in the way the homes are laid out and the types of flooring and colors for the exteriors.

Applicants must meet income and eligibility criteria, such as ability to make their payments, Goodnight explained. She said the program is geared to low- and moderate-income applicants. She added that new applications are always welcome. Contact CRHDC at (719) 589-1680 or see their web site at www.crhdc.org/

Caption: Working on a doorway at the construction site of their new homes on Friday are from left Cherie Sanchez, Brandee Mondragon and Angelica Gallegos./Courier photo by Ruth Heide