We Build Strength, Stability, and Self-Reliance Through Shelter 

March 28, 2023

Lavern & Liz

Lavern and Liz applied for the Home Repair program after being without water for a few days. A city pipe crushed their main water pipe under the street in front of their house. This significantly impacted their day-to-day lives as they had no access to their plumbing system. Because of this situation, their grandchildren – who currently reside with them – went to stay with their mom.

Lavern checked with the 211 helpline who recommended Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity and its Home Repair program which provides zero-interest loans for critical home repairs and home preservation repairs for financially qualified applicants. Habitat immediately offered assistance. “We filled out paperwork, and they had it fixed in a couple of days and gave us a month to do our part. What a relief!” Liz said.

“Habitat doing those repairs meant we kept our house, and the kids were so happy when the repairs got done and they could come back home,” Liz said.

June 1, 2023


Elana, a 33-year-old single mother of two who also cares for her three nephews, partnered with Black Hills Area Habitat in 2021. A proud member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and active participant in her community, she is known for having a big heart. Raised in Rapid City with her nine siblings, she witnessed her own mother’s participation in the Black Hills Area habitat home program.

Prior to obtaining her Habitat home, she had been facing housing instability as well as battling health concerns for son. He suffers from respiratory problems as well as three different disabilities. Elana wished to find a safe and healthy environment to raise her children. Finally, she decided to apply for a Habitat home.

After completing the required sweat hours and classes, Elana obtained a Habitat home that resides next to her childhood house in the Sioux Addition! It is a dream come true for Elana as she will now own a home in a neighborhood that has memories from her own childhood and she also can help create new, wonderful memories for her own children.

“This will have a huge impact on my children,” she said. “This is a life-changing opportunity that will allow my children to grow up as I did with a safe yard and healthy environment. I look forward to planting a garden and going back to college to finish a degree in social work. I’ll no longer have to live in fear of being homeless with my children.”

September 25, 2023


Sabrina, a Sturgis native who has worked with Black Hills Special Services for almost a decade, had been living in a crowded home with her father and two boys. She knew that for her kids to have a happy and healthy childhood and her father to get some peace and quiet, she needed to establish a home just for them. That dream came true on Sept. 25, and the community came together to celebrate her home dedication.

“Nothing was really happening for me,” Sabrina explained, “I wanted to make some changes. I’d wanted for us to have our own home for a while and was trying to save up for one, but with housing prices like they are, I just couldn’t do it. I’d get approved by the bank, but the loan wouldn’t be enough. I put my application in to Habitat and hoped I’d get chosen. Without Habitat, we wouldn’t have our home.”

“It was super amazing putting that last piece and being like ‘Wow, this is my home.’ It makes me appreciate it so much more to see all the work that goes into it.”

June 26, 2022


Tracy started the Habitat program in January of 2022 with a huge support system in tow. In a little over 5 months Tracy completed 250 hours of sweat equity, including financial classes, home maintenance classes, and working on the construction site. Tracy has always worked with the goal of independent living in mind, and so many of us have enjoyed every minute of cheering her on!

“Tracy has overcome many challenges in her life to reach her goals and she looks forward to achieving her next goal the American dream of homeownership.” –Karri Saothoff, Benchmark Human Services

June 7, 2022


This winter we partnered with homeowner, Lauren. She is so generous with her friends and family, and has gone above and beyond providing support and a home for her children and grandchildren over the years. Despite her giving nature toward others, Lauren has a hard time asking for help.

Lauren lived without hot water for two years before finding the courage to call Habitat for Humanity and apply for the Home Repair program. Now, our Home Repair team has completed work needed to improve the home Lauren has owned for over 20 years. Many items were replaced including the hot water heater, back door, and three broken windows, as well as repairing the plumbing beneath her bathtub. For many years, her living room window had been boarded up with a broken air conditioner. It has taken some getting used to being able to finally see the sunlight coming into her home!

Lauren can now take warm showers and even open her windows on nice days to feel the breeze. Her new door will be able to keep out the cold, and help to protect her home with no more listening to the wind rattling during our chilly South Dakota winters.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can see the sunlight coming in after 19 years. Even the neighbors noticed how nice the windows look.”

March 29, 2022


Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity purchased the blighted neighborhood lot on the corner of Midway and Mac Arthur in 2017, demolishing the condemned and illegally occupied home and began building three single-family homes in its place. The first of these new affordable homes was dedicated on March 29th to Habitat homeowner, Marie, and her son Joshua.

While working multiple jobs, raising her son, and going to school, Marie completed 250 hours of sweat equity, including financial classes, home maintenance classes, and construction hours. Even Joshua pitched in by earning good grades in school and putting them towards Marie’s friends and family hours. The pair are looking forward to what the future holds.

Marie’s home is our 21st home built in partnership with Habitat, Thrivent Financial, and local churches.

“When we think about what we really want in life, it requires generosity, charity, and empathy. I can’t think of an organization that demonstrates this better than Thrivent, and they do it year after year in the Black Hills through sponsoring our home building program, inspiring volunteers and faith communities to act boldly.  Thrivent’s partnership cannot be replicated because it is rooted in relationships and significant funding that becomes sticks, bricks and ultimately shelters for people in need,” said Scott Engmann, Executive Director, Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity at the dedication.

“We will be able to create a place that we can be happy at. A place where we can hang our memories. A place of comfort. Home is a place where family can come together-a safe place to be who you are [with] warmth, laughter, [and] celebrations of the year.”

Learn more about Marie’s home dedication.

October 26, 2021

“Being a single person renting in this community is difficult. The new affordable housing in our community is not feasible on one income. I have lived in several substandard places over the past five years.”


After earning her college degree, Jesse entered the workforce like many others, young, hopeful, and eager to assert her independence. What she found in the following years was a relentless cycle of housing insecurity.

In 2020 Jesse found herself living in an apartment with mold in the walls, a furnace that was leaking gas, and a landlord who wasn’t responsive.

The situation was not only dangerous, but the upkeep of the shoddy rental was once again impacting her budget. Jesse knew it was time to reach for a hand-up. After applying for the Habitat program, Jesse excelled in completing her 250 hours of sweat equity.

What many future Habitat homeowners complete in eighteen months, Jesse completed in just under nine months!

In the Fall of 2021, Jesse moved into her twin home and began making affordable, interest-free mortgage payments.

Looking back on where she came from, Jesse decided she couldn’t let anyone else suffer under those conditions. Taking matters into her own hands, she went to the city to report her former landlord and has educated future tenants on the risks.

In the future, Jesse hopes to take on rental protections as a passion project, and she has become a true believer that everyone deserves a decent place to live.

September, 28, 2021

Sophia and Anthony

While living in California, Sophia and Anthony had contacted their local Habitat affiliate in hopes of applying. “Having a core place to call home and feel a sense of security for all 7 of our children,” said Sophia, ” is all we could ever ask for. I could see great things happening for my family if given the opportunity to build a Habitat home.” Unfortunately, that opportunity would have to wait.
In 2017, seeking a fresh start and the chance for Sophia to return to her Lakota roots, the couple relocated to South Dakota with their children. Three years late, amid a pandemic, their hope of owning a Habitat home was reignited. On September 28, 2021, in partnership with Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity, Sophia and Anthony dedicated their Habitat home, completing their 1,500-mile journey to homeownership.
“I can’t stress the importance of giving families like mine an opportunity like this. Not only does it give people like Anthony and myself an opportunity to grow and excel in life, but the same thing for our children and their children. And when all is said and done, it creates a better community within a city. Magic!”

July 29, 2021


Angel began working with Habitat in 2019 and was hitting her stride when the world took a turn. As a healthcare worker and the primary caregiver for her mother and three boys, Angel had a lot on her plate. Through determination and hard work, Angel completed her 250 hours of sweat equity and is now enjoying her home with her sons.

“In a home, I can grow with my children in a stable environment and make memories.

Share in Sophia and Anthony’s home dedication.

June 16, 2021

Check out Hearts for Habitat’s televised gala to learn more about Lacey.

Learn more about Representative Tim Goodwin’s experience at Lacey’s home dedication.

Lacey’s Letter

Dear Readers,

Little did I know when I walked into the Habitat office that day, that two years later my daughter and I would be the proud owner of a beautiful, safe, and efficient home. I never dreamed the strangers in the room would become my mentors or my friends, but they did and we did.

The love and guidance we received from everyone in this process doesn’t compare to anything I’ve ever experienced. Every single volunteer and team member pours their heart and souls into these homes, the families they will belong to. It’s the kind of thing most people see on T.V., but never get to experience. Never have I met people with such patience and generosity. Taking the time to teach me how to paint (and do it well), shingle a roof, lay flooring, measure, cut and hang drywall, and prepare the ground for landscaping. There is so much that goes into building a home that I would have taken for granted had it not been for the people that encouraged me through this. Thank you, thank you to everyone who walked with us on this journey I could write for hours about how you’ve changed our lives.There are just not enough words to describe the gratitude we feel. Congratulations to the ones before me, you’re amazing. Enjoy your new homes! And to the ones after me, keep pushing forward! It will be worth it and you will be better for it! Here’s to a brighter future from my family to yours!

Much love and smiles,

Lacey Piazza

June 18, 2021


Qwauna joined the Habitat program in 2019 and is the recipient of the 2020 Faith Build home. The project has faced many setbacks and delays, but with prayer and persistence we are nearing its completion. A special thanks to Thrivent Financial and area churches for coming together and supporting Qwauna in achieving her goal of homeownership!

“Before the program I wasn’t sure about hope or community. I didn’t think either existed. But today, I am certain without either, I would not be where I am today.

October 26, 2020


Michael, a U.S. Military Veteran and electrical journeyman of 35 years, achieved his goal of homeownership on October 26th, 2020. “I was scared when I walked in” says Michael, “I’ve been knocked down a couple of times, so I was so happy and surprised that I was one of three [families] chosen to move on with the [Habitat] program. Having [future Habitat homeowners] Qwauna and Lacey go through this with me gave me so much hope and motivation. We’ve had the chance to really do something here. To get into a home and leave a legacy behind.”

Joining the Habitat program in 2019, Michael, with his positive attitude (a legacy from his parents), became a light among the other partner families and construction crew. We are so excited to continue watching Michael’s legacy unfold as a father, electrician, and Habitat homeowner.

Read more of Michael’s story

November 4, 2020

Shawna and Joan

In 2010 buying a 1981 mobile home felt like a sound decision for Joan and her daughter Shawna. Like many families after the 2008 housing crash, it was a means to getting out of their cramped apartment and into something of the own. When they looked at it the neighborhood was friendly and the inspector they paid gave it a clean bill of health. Since banks are unwilling to issue a loan on structure without a foundation, they borrowed the money from a friend. “We had a lawyer draft up a contract and we paid our friend back over the course of seven years,” says Shawna, “We wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise.”

It wasn’t until they moved in that they discovered what their neighbor referred to as a “can of worms.” Instead of replacing the siding, the former owner put new siding on top of the old, sealing in the black mold and other debris. The mobile home was now rotting from the inside out.

As a few years went by, Shawna and Joan often say in unison, “We held things together with duct tape and nail polish.” Then one evening Joan saw a commercial for Habitat for Humanity and learned about the Home Repair program. She had Shawna call the next day, but they were disappointed when they discovered it would be another year before their project could be scheduled.

In the meantime, Shawna attempted to work with two other organizations. The first was unwilling to repair older trailer homes and the second backed out after an environmental review. A corner of the family’s trailer sits on the flood plain, and even with flood insurance, the organization was unwilling to take the risk. “Habitat was the only one that was willing to work with us,” says Shawna, “so we waited.”

When our Home Repair team came in, the two women were feeling defeated, but hopeful. “Bruce and Mark were so kind and respectful. We got really attached to them as people.” Says Shawna. “They worked on our home as if it were their own,” says Joan, “It’s been a miracle on many levels.”

On this, we as Habitat wholeheartedly agree with Joan. The more time our crew spent in the trailer court, the more they got to know not just Shawna and Joan, but the neighbors. Within a few weeks, fixing up Shawna and Joan’s trailer became a neighborhood affair. Michael-Lee from across the street came over to help paint the siding and her 80-year-old father, Andy, who is a former Habitat volunteer, came over to replace the storm door.

Eventually Ashley, their next-door neighbor, saw all the work being done and the mother daughter duo convinced her into applying. Our crew is currently working on Ashley’s home and two more families in the trailer court have been added to our wait list. “I am glad they are working right next door,” says Shawna. “It would have been too hard to say goodbye.”

It has been such a pleasure to serve this family and to serve a community that has been forgotten and underserved.

January 23, 2020


As a single parent, Nicole has experienced the difficulty of finding an affordable home. She and her daughter, Hannah, have lived in apartments for years and experienced the pain of increasing rents and lack of stability. After qualifying for the Habitat affordable home ownership program, and completing the 250 hours of sweat equity required as the down payment for her home, Nicole diligently continued to invest her labor above and beyond the expectation by working many additional hours in construction. Nicole was blessed to finally purchase her Habitat home January 23. Before she signed her mortgage, Nicole shared a few words about the impact her Habitat home would have on her family:

“It will be life changing to have a home I can call my own, and the feeling of security and stability for a single mom is priceless…the floor plan is almost identical to the home I lived in as a child, so it will feel literally like coming home!”

September 23, 2019


Prior to partnering with Habitat, Deb and her granddaughter lived in an unsafe home, where substance abuse was obvious among nearby homes, and crime was high. Additionally, the house was impossible to cool in the summer, and expensive to heat in the winter. The cost of rent and utilities made it hard for her to make ends meet. Now, Deb no longer has to worry about Leana’s safety at home. She can be secure in in her shelter.

“Hope makes me want to do more with my life and give back to my community. Now, owning my Habitat home, I know that Leana can bring her friends to ‘our’ house. I’m so proud of my home, and I look forward to the future.”