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Building their future

A sight-impaired local musician who's lived in a motor home for decades and a grandmother on a fixed income are mere months away from homes of their dreams, which just happen to be the same structure.

Holding a bouquet of flowers and wearing a T-shirt saying "Homeowner," Jude Forler was at a loss for words as more than 50 women helped erect the walls Saturday on what will soon be her duplex in the 1400 block of Sweet Road in west Medford. As crews carefully lifted her walls, Forler described the scene as "overwhelming."

"It's kind of like when I was first selected, I became totally inarticulate," Forler said. "I said, 'Oh my gosh, oh my gosh' a thousand times." 

Forler will share a wall with Bill Hahey, blind since birth, who's lived in a motor home since 1990. Hahey said he's looking forward to having a home with space to create music on his own and with others that he'll be able to sell to pay his affordable mortgage.  

"You can't really record tunes in a motor home," Hahey said, adding that extra soundproofing is going into his recording studio to avoid disturbing Forler.

About 53 local women participated in volunteer events since March, turning lumber into wall frames and helping build sheds for Forler and Hahey, according to Brandon Thoms with Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity. The wall-raising ceremony Saturday, the local chapter's ninth, was part of national Women Build Week events across the country.

Volunteer Anastasia Anderson of Eagle Point said the duplex was the fourth she's helped build.

"After my first one I got hooked," Anderson said. "I feel so much blessing here."

Anderson said she likes the all-women volunteer events because they move at a pace better suited for someone who doesn't have much experience with tools. When she encounters a power tool with which she's not familiar, she feels comfortable speaking up.

Anderson said she also gains home improvement knowledge with each build.

"I love to learn," Anderson said. "I'm a lot handier."

For Tina Wright of Central Point, the build was her first. She heard about the event from a coworker.

"I love that we're doing this for people in great need," Wright said.

Forler is currently living in a Medford mobile home park and struggling. She said she understands why the rent at her park had to rise, calling it "simple economics," but said it's a hardship as a senior on a fixed income. Her fixed 30-year mortgage will be much more manageable.

"Quite frankly I'm drowning where I am," Forler said. "The costs are exceeding my income."

Hahey is looking forward to giving back to the organization with a fundraiser concert called the "House that Music Built" on Aug. 31 at Britt. He said he's eager to help the organization however he can for as long as he can, because he couldn't reach his longtime goal of homeownership without it.

"I couldn't do it on my own," Hahey said. "I couldn't do it through banks — I tried, but I couldn't do it."

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4417 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Volunteers help new homeowner Bill Hahey raise the first wall of his Habitat for Humanity home Saturday in west Medford. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]