The newest River Cities Habitat for Humanity project is near completion on Carney Avenue in Marinette. The organization’s annual fundraiser will take place Friday at Riverside Golf Club in Menominee. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
The newest River Cities Habitat for Humanity project is near completion on Carney Avenue in Marinette. The organization’s annual fundraiser will take place Friday at Riverside Golf Club in Menominee. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MENOMINEE - When the River Cities Habitat for Humanity started Sept. 21, 1993, the creators' aims were to build houses for families in need of a home. Now, 20 years later, the volunteers build or refurbish houses, create wheelchair ramps, help with small critical items such as plumbing or window repair and it is all done for the good of the community.

This Friday, it will host its fourth annual signature event fundraiser titled Building Dreams at the Riverside Golf Club.

"The main reason we do it is to keep us out there in the community and to raise funds to build houses and to do small projects, called Neighborhood Revitalization projects," said Tom Tebo, executive director of the River Cities Habitat for Humanity.

Tickets are $20 per person and include a wide array of appetizers, beer and soda and the opportunity to listen to and meet Chris Jacke, a former Green Bay Packers kicker and a 2013 inductee into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame.

The event also includes a silent auction beginning with dining at 5:30 p.m. and a live auction beginning at 7.

"The live and silent auction items are better than any other year," Tebo said. "We have a very good fundraising and PR committee. Our sponsorship and what has been donated to us for this event has been better than ever."

The live auction items include tickets to the Packers versus Atlanta Falcons, a full day of walleye fishing for three people on Green Bay, Forgotten Fire wine tasting, 9.5-foot kayak, a week's stay at Elk Haven Lodge in Colorado and round trip tickets for four to Orlando or Ft. Meyers, Fla., with a week's stay at a timeshare.

"We don't do a lot of small fundraisers," Tebo said. "This is our one. This is our one fundraiser where we ask the community to step up and help us to fulfill our mission. So the turnout for this is very important."

"We rely a lot on the community's involvement," said Ellen Grabian, who also works for the River Cities Habitat for Humanity.

The money raised from this event will be put toward general operations and funding of projects for the year. The River Cities Habitat for Humanity is also using the event to celebrate 20 years of helping the community.

Since its beginning in 1993, the volunteers have completed 13 houses, including the house on Carney Avenue and they have done 27 projects total. These projects include building wheelchair ramps and other small critical projects that help families and communities.

"The small projects will enhance the neighborhood and help the community and is better for us budget wise," Tebo said. "When we spread it out this way, we're making an impact on more people."

Tebo added that the majority of these projects have been completed in the last three years.

"The turnaround took place because when I was an intern, I saw what the Menominee River Habitat in Iron River, Mich., were doing and they were affiliate of the year in Michigan," he said. "So we took the things they were doing right and applied them here and expanded our staff to do the things that need to get done."

After the completion of the house on Carney Avenue, which has taken almost 1,600 hours of work and utilized about 68 different volunteers, Tebo said they plan to start construction on a house they acquired in Menominee. Instead of building this house from scratch, they are refurbishing the existing structure.

"This way, we can get the family into their home faster because we don't have to come up with as much funds as we would for a house we build," Tebo explained. "In the last two or three years, I've seen a substantial impact on the community and I think these small projects have helped with that. There is a definite need for people to do these things."

Even today, Tebo said they still look for more and more volunteers because so many of the projects they do require skilled laborers. Recently, at the Carney Avenue building site, they hit a road block because none of the volunteers knew how to put up trim.

"We still face challenges with it because we need more skilled volunteers to step forward and help us with certain aspects," Tebo added. "You have to have the right mind set to work at a nonprofit. You have to enjoy helping people and helping the community."

He also said he feels the River Cities Habitat for Humanity has made a great impact on the Menominee and Marinette communities.

"We're building more houses, we're putting families in a home, we are doing these small projects that are enhancing people's quality of life," Tebo said.

As an example, he and Grabian told the story of a woman in Crivitz for whom they had built a wheelchair ramp. The woman was in the last year of her life because of a disease and she had been stuck in her house for six or eight months.

"We weren't even finished and her husband brought her to their front door so she could see what we were working on. You could genuinely see in her face how excited she was. I thought then, 'This is so right.'" Grabian said.

"Its moments like these that keep us moving forward and keeps our minds focused and lets us know that we are definitely making an impact on people's lives," Tebo added.