Lindsey Trudeau, Logan Hansen and Mary McGann get into the spirit of the season ahead of Community Rebuilds' upcoming “Miracle on First North” fundraiser at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center. [Photo courtesy of Emily Niehaus]

Enjoy live theater and music while supporting a good cause, at the second annual “Miracle on First North” fundraiser.

The Dec. 19-20 event at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center will benefit Community Rebuilds, a nonprofit organization that builds affordable and energy-efficient housing in the community.

“Miracle on First North” is a two-act event that will feature “The Year Santa Claus Got Mixed Up” and “The Grinch;” both performances will be held in the center’s “stage” room. Moab resident Doni Kissmeyer will act as the Grinch, and Mary McGann will portray Mrs. Claus. Five-year old Oscar Niehaus will play the part of the dog Max, in “The Grinch.”

Meanwhile, in the MARC’s “dance” room, local musicians will perform a full range of holiday songs, according to Community Rebuilds Executive Director Emily Niehaus. Between acts, there will be a 30-minute intermission with holiday-themed food and beverages. After the break, event-goers switch places to attend the other act.

“Last year, we had a packed house – it was a lot of fun,” Niehaus said.

Child care for toddlers will be provided on the premises while their parents enjoy the festivities. Children will watch holiday cartoons, and they will be given healthy snacks, Niehaus said.

The $15 tickets are available in advance at Back of Beyond Bookstore, 83 N. Main St. Tickets will also be available at the door; only 150 tickets will be sold each night.

Community Rebuilds was founded by Niehaus, who, as a former loan officer, noted that individuals seeking loans to purchase fixer-upper mobile homes were unable to qualify for conventional loans. In other cases, people already living in the mobile homes sought refinancing but were denied.

“I thought, surely there’s a way to assist these families,” Niehaus said.

Niehaus said she and a group of friends started the nonprofit organization because they wanted to address affordable housing in Moab. They set out to find a way to replace dilapidated trailers with new, energy-efficient straw-bale homes, while recycling as much as possible from the existing structures. The nonprofit is funded through foundations, individual donations and federal grants.

“We’re finishing our ninth and tenth house (in Moab) this month,” Niehaus said. “We’re on a mission to help other communities with housing needs,” as well.

Since 2010, the organization has also built a home in Gunnison, Colorado, and it is preparing to build another house in Crested Butte, Colorado, next summer.

“I learned about natural building (such as the straw-bale technology) from Doni (Kissmeyer),” Niehaus said. “I learned about the workshop model” – where students earn college credit as interns while learning to build energy-efficient homes.

Families interested in the home-building program must fall below the low (80 percent) income limits based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development criteria. Additionally, at least one family member must be employed full-time, with a two-year employment history in his or her community.

Community Rebuilds provides free consultations to families to help them obtain low-interest rate loans to purchase the homes.

Construction costs are kept low, in part, through the combined labor of the group’s staff and unpaid interns who earn college credit and a stipend.

Costs are further reduced by using as many donated building materials as possible. Straw-bale insulation reduces future costs in heating and cooling, thus “continuing the affordability of our homes long after they’re built,” according to the Community Rebuilds website. The homes are finished with earth plaster siding.

Nancy Morlock and her partner Eric Boxrud, both mountain biking guides and parents of an infant, built their Moab house through Community Rebuilds two-and-a-half years ago. Morlock said that when they were looking a few years ago for property to purchase, the only thing affordable was an older trailer home that banks didn’t want to loan money for.

Through the Community Rebuilds program, however, they were able to purchase the property, and replace the inefficient structure with an energy-efficient, passive solar, straw-bale home.

“It’s amazing – we haven’t turned the heat on yet,” Morlock said. “The house maintains 65 degrees at night. We love it and can’t imagine living in any other kind of house. It stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer.”

In January, Community Rebuilds will celebrate its two most recent completed builds with an open house.

“We’re doing what we can to solve affordable housing issues, and we’re teaching people how to build a house while having a lot of fun,” Niehaus said.

To make a donation – a bale of hay is just $10 – or for more information, visit: or call 435-260-0501.

To make a donation – a bale of hay is just $10 – or for more information, visit: or call 435-260-0501.

Fundraising theatre production will support local affordable, green housing

“Last year, we had a packed house – it was a lot of fun.”

What: Second annual “Miracle on First North” – a theater and music/ dance fundraiser for Community Rebuilds.

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North

When: Friday and Saturday, Dec. 19 and 20, 6-8 p.m.

Cost: Tickets are $15, includes theater, music, food and beverages

Information: 435-259-6272; 435-260-0501