Martha Garcia: Faith groups building for vets

Phil Mestler and Joshua Massey photo - veterans latest news
Habitat For Humanity Circle of Faith volunteer Phil Mestler, left, and Joshua Massey from Edwards Air Force Base prepare to cut base molding for a home at the Veteran Enriched Neighborhood, phase two build site in Santa Clarita on Saturday. 082016 DAN WATSON

Anjalisha Delgado and Yesenia Olmos, both 17 year old seniors from Bishop Alemany High School, worked diligently together Saturday to help caulk floorboards, clean up houses, and plant shrubbery at the Habitat for Humanity Circle of Faith Build in Canyon Country.

The pair, alongside their teacher Sister Sarah Goggin, who has been a nun for several decades and taught at Alemany for 14 years, were a part of a larger group of faith based organizations who came together for a greater cause, helping veterans.

“We really just wanted to give because of what they do for us,” explained Delgado, whose grandfather is also a veteran.

More than 60 volunteers joined the effort to help build houses at the Habitat for Humanity’s first Circle of Faith Build at the Veteran Enriched Neighborhood Build Site on Centre Pointe Parkway. The 78 home community offers housing to military veterans at a reduced cost.

“Our veterans have given so much to our country, they sacrifice so much,” explained Marc McPhee who volunteered with a group from Santa Clarita United Methodist Church. “It’s important to make them feel appreciated.”

The groups completed different tasks for the community in preparation of the key ceremony for phase 2 of the project which will be held on September 10. Residents will move in November 1. Veteran residents already occupy the 26 homes in phase 1. Currently, only the foundation is complete for the remaining 24 homes in phase 3.

“It’s important for us to take care of one another, what faith doesn’t say to do that,” explained Sister Goggin. “They put their lives on the line for us. Considering the gift they’ve given, they deserve adequate homes.”

Working together

This is the first Circle of Faith Build in Santa Clarita. The organization has hosted faith builds internationally since 2000. The goal is simple, bring different faith groups together and offer an opportunity for them to “put their faith and love into action.” In this case, at a Habitat build designed to benefit veterans.

“Often people of faith are called to help the poor, serve others and make the world a better place,” explained Donielle DeLeon, Director of Corporate and Community Engagement at Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV. “Building a Habitat community for veterans is a clear expression of faith for people of many diverse beliefs.”

The Circle of Faith build had attendees from many faith groups near and far, including volunteers from Santa Clarita United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of SCV, Bishop Alemany High School, Chaminade High School, Thrivent, and the Black Sheep Harley Davidson for Christ Motorcycle Ministry in Murrieta.

“I think it’s beautiful that different faith groups can work together,” explained Olmos. “It doesn’t matter where you come from.”

Those groups were joined by individual volunteers currently enlisted in the military and based at Edwards Air Force Base.

“This is a good program that helps those who served before us,” said Kelsey Stillwell, Air Force Staff Sergeant stationed at Edwards.

Best of both worlds

The common goal was a poignant realization for Cassie and Gina Roberson. The couple, who volunteered Saturday and attends the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of SCV, are also receiving a home at the site through the Habitat program.

“This is a unique opportunity to get out and get your hands dirty and build something,” explained Gina. “Your volunteer hours literally translate into a completed home.”

Cassie also served in the Army from 2011 to 2014. Both women explained what an enriching experience volunteering has been for them. Cassie also shared how important the Habitat program was for veterans like her. She is currently using the GI Bill to complete a degree in Kinesiology to become a PE teacher.

“It would have never been possible for me to get out of the army and go straight to buy a house,” she said. “Like most veterans, you go to the military right after high school and when you get out all your friends are graduating college. You feel kind of behind. With this, we get the best of both worlds. I can better myself in school and create a better life for my family.”

For more information about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity visit

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