Homeowners Serah Mead (left front) and Gabriel Woytek stand in front of their future home on 100 North. [Photo courtesy of Community Rebuilds]

Moab residents enjoy a special sense of community – one that consistently demonstrates camaraderie, initiative and service.

It’s these qualities that beget the many events and organizations that define Moab. Community Rebuilds, a local nonprofit that provides affordable, sustainable housing to low-income residents, is one such organization. On Wednesday, Dec. 13, from 2 to 7 p.m., the group is inviting residents to come celebrate its latest completed housing project at 368 E. 100 North.

There will be snacks and a performance by Moab’s own Fiery Furnace Marching Band, and visitors can drop in to tour the custom touches, to visit with friends and neighbors, and to experience the potential of volunteer power.

Community Rebuilds, launched in 2010, is the brainchild of Moab Mayor-elect Emily Niehaus. Its stated mission is “to build energy-efficient housing, provide education on sustainability and improve the housing conditions of the workforce through an affordable program.”

Twice a year, 16 recruits come to Moab to spend five months building two straw-bale homes in exchange for housing, a bulk food stipend and in-depth, hands-on construction training. They work alongside the homeowners and under the supervision of experienced builders. Community Rebuilds is constantly evolving and adapting to new scenarios each semester.

This fall was the first semester that interns and homeowners built three homes (in the past they’ve built two) in five months – the 20th, 21st and 22nd homes to be created by Community Rebuilds in Moab. The new homes are all located on the same site, and are slightly smaller in square footage than previous homes – appropriate for higher-density, downtown-area housing.

Aside from providing healthy, beautiful homes at an affordable price, Community Rebuilds is a positive feedback loop for those shared values that make Moab the place it is.

New homeowner Nelly Drogin reflected on the time she’s spent working with the program.

“Starting this process, it was all about building a house to live in,” Drogin said. “It’s been so inspiring to work with everyone – the build team, the students – who volunteered their time to take on this giant project. It’s really opened my eyes to the world of volunteer service. That’s been my evolving view of the program – from being goal-oriented, to so much more.”

Building a home is demanding – CR requires 20 hours of labor per week from each homeowner – but once she’s settled into her house, Drogin plans to put her new perspective on service into action.

“That’s been my big takeaway,” she said. “When this is done and I have more time again, I look forward to being involved with the program – maybe volunteer on the next build, bring them treats. Until you go through the process you don’t truly understand what the students go through. How much work they do, the fact that they’re not getting paid.”

The time and labor the volunteer interns commit to the build are what make the entire program possible. Fortunately, the interns generally feel that they’ve grown, and ultimately gained, from the energy they’ve put in. Maya Fohrman came to Moab from Colorado to join the build this fall. She described the support and friendship she’s found in her fellow CR participants.

“It’s been amazing to be able to spend every day surrounded by people that I know care about me,” Fohrman said. “I’ve learned so much and been challenged so much, but at the same time, I don’t feel like I’ve been asked to do more than I’m capable of. It’s really a beautiful thing to see our different abilities complement each other. I love that about being on the project.”

Community Rebuilds interns come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and experience, and when they meet and converge on a common goal, they end up building their own social values and sense of identity at the same time they are building houses together.

Fohrman praised the town and the organization for its support.

“I’m so excited to come back to Moab,” she said. “Being here for five months, it’s been really special to build our own little community. I hope there are more organizations like CR … [an organization] that does so much for its volunteers. It prioritizes their well-being as much as the project.”

Homeowners also acknowledge the sense of belonging that grows out of the program.

Holli Zollinger, another new homeowner, said her experience with Community Rebuilds has been “life changing.”

“In addition to gaining a creative, hand-sculpted home, I found a beautiful community of staff, students and fellow homeowners,” Zollinger said. “Through this process, I also gained a treasured, working knowledge of natural building.”

Melissa Graciosa, one of the lead builders for Community Rebuilds and a participant in several previous builds, promises there will be a lot to see at the open house.

“There are some beautiful details, and the personality of each homeowner is really captured in the finishes of the home,” Graciosa said. “They’re all very uniquely different.”

Straw-bale construction lends itself to personalization. The thickness of the walls creates dramatic depth, and allows for carved custom niches and shelves. The plaster finishes create a warm, cozy feel, and can be sculpted into decorative embellishments. Look for a snail relief trailing over a bedroom doorway in one of the homes.

“It’s truly amazing, what people are putting into this,” Drogin said.

“It’s truly amazing, what people are putting into this.”

Housing nonprofit invites residents to visit latest project on Dec. 13

When: Wednesday, Dec. 13, from 2 to 7 p.m.

Where: 368 E. 100 North

Cost: Free