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Building Hope

How Crowley County Correctional Facility Inmates are Making Homeowner’s Dreams Come True

Article by Skye Marsh

Photography by Al Milligan Images/Crowley County Correctional Facility

Originally published in Loveland & South Lifestyle

As if Habitat for Humanity was not already contributing enough to society in its mission to provide affordable homes for deserving families, they take it one step further in their partnership with WeBuild, a vocational education program housed in the Crowley County Correctional Facility. At this medium-security facility in Olney Springs, CO, Ken Baylor and his fellow instructors teach inmates invaluable woodworking, truss-making, and other skills necessary to cabinet- and home-building. 

All the “assignments” these men create in the woodshop are foundational pieces that will eventually make their way to residences across Colorado, not only into those designated for Habitat for Humanity recipients, but also into senior living facilities, apartments, and private homes as well. 

Since 1998, WeBuild and Habitat have joined forces with Crowley to create custom-made, high quality wooden cabinets, vanities, and more for Habitat homes.  Baylor developed the program to find a way to benefit the community while also offering post-incarceration job skills to the inmates. After a quick internet search, Baylor discovered Habitat for Humanity and their need for high-quality cabinets at a decent price, and WeBuild was born.

Inside the correctional facility, the program has grown from an initial 20 inmates in its inaugural year to more than a hundred currently. Up to 40 men may be on the waitlist for upwards of four months to join the classes. The requirements for admission include a high school diploma or GED and a referral from a case manager. Upon completion, graduates earn a journeyman’s license. Those who make their way into WeBuild and complete it find enormous benefit, both vocationally and emotionally.  

Ken shares success stories enthusiastically: a 50-year-old leaving prison with his choice between three job offers; a young man now working on the outside with the same engineering company he partnered with while inside; men who have never built up, but have only torn down, learning the value of creating for others.  “It dang sure changes a lot of lives,” Baylor says. 

“It makes a huge change in their lives... That’s why I’ve committed my life. I’ve been here 22 years, I started the program, and I love my job.” - Ken Baylor

WeBuild has provided 100% of the cabinets in Colorado’s Habitat for Humanity homes for 22 years. For the past two years, the program has expanded into providing their high-quality products to the average consumer. In total, WeBuild has provided cabinetry for approximately 5,500 residential units since its inception.

The custom cabinets can be purchased by anyone wishing to save money and contribute to the greater good. Meghan Morris, the Director of ReStore Operations and Human Resources in Loveland, shares that WeBuild cabinets can cost 30-50% less than a comparable product from a traditional retail store. “It’s solid-wood custom cabinets at a ReStore price,” Morris states.

Cindi Hammond, Executive Director of Loveland’s Habitat for Humanity branch, shares that “the craftsmanship of the cabinets far exceeds many things that customers are seeing in the marketplace. The attention to detail, and customization has been impeccable.”

People interested in having custom cabinetry built should visit Habitat’s ReStore in Loveland to see a brochure or to speak with Meghan. Options are endless, both in variety of what can be built and materials used. “They can really do anything,” Morris says, “it’s the same as any other custom cabinet maker.” A brochure is available online at habitatcolorado.org/webuild-program.

Customers then make an appointment with Meghan Morris at the ReStore in Loveland to begin the process of creating their custom furnishings. The design ideas are then sent off to the men at Crowley in the WeBuild program, where they will create CAD drawings and quotes based on the types of materials selected. 

Wood choices include everything from the standards such as oak, alder and poplar for painted cabinets, cherry or any other material a customer may be interested in. “Anything you want, we can get,” Meghan assures. Available designs are not limited to kitchen cabinetry: past products include stand-alone tables and nightstands, home theatre units, bathroom vanities, and more.

Once the homeowner deems the product design ready, the solid wood cabinets are built by hand in the shop facilities at Crowley. Because of the detail and care put into the final product, the process can take up to 8 weeks before being ready for delivery across Colorado (Note: Installation is up to the homeowner and not provided by Habitat for Humanity or WeBuild).

While the builders are unable to see the final product installed in-person, homeowners often share pictures. That’s when “it becomes personal for them,” according to Baylor, “knowing they contributed to the heart of someone’s home.”

By the Numbers

Need: Habitat accepts applications in two cycles per year, with a total of 80-100 applications received. Qualifying applicants must make 35-70% of the median income.  Of those, six will be selected for homes.

Homes Built: Since its inception in 1987, Habitat has built 147 homes for deserving families in Loveland! Applicants must have lived or worked in Loveland for at least one year.

Volunteers: Providing keys to six homeowners yearly requires, “ten volunteers building four days a week,” according to Cindi Hammond. Loveland’s branch saw 1,300 volunteers serve in 2019.

How You Can Get Involved 

Purchase WeBuild Cabinets: Cabinets are available to the general public through Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore at 5250 N. Garfield Avenue, or call (970) 669-7343 to speak with Meghan. A catalogue of available cabinetry designs can be at: habitatcolorado.org/webuild-program.

Donate to/Shop at ReStore: The ReStore is “the largest fundraising arm of Habitat. That is how we can build as many homes in Loveland as we do,” according to Morris.  Donate gently used goods and shop the treasures offered. Used inventory includes furniture, clothing, construction materials and more; new items include mattresses, area rugs, bamboo memory foam pillows, throw blankets, and more.

Volunteer: Volunteers are needed in a wide variety of capacities, from sorting donations to answering phones, or even in the construction of a home. “We will teach you everything you need to know on the day that you build. It is a very supportive environment,” Hammond promises. For more information, please visit lovelandhabitat.org/volunteer.

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