Executive to walk over 100 miles for family in need

Wayne Eller, executive director of East Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, is walking from Cambridge to Duluth this week to raise money for a family who lost their Willow River home in the June floods. Photo by Rachel Kytonen

Wayne Eller’s feet are likely going to be sore come Saturday, but that ache will remind him of the act he accomplished for a family in need.

Eller, the executive director of East Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, which serves five counties including Chisago and Isanti, set out Monday from his office in Cambridge on a 100-plus mile walk to Duluth in order to raise money for Crystal Powell and her family.

The Powell’s Willow River home was destroyed by floods in June, and the family of six have been living in a small apartment with Crystal’s father ever since.

Eller said Habitat was already building a home in Willow River near the Powell’s house when the floods hit.

“We had gotten to know her and him when we were tearing down a garbage lot,” Eller said.

Right away after the flood, Eller said he and the others in the Habitat crew wanted to help the Powells, but there were a number of challenges facing them.

First, the Powells had to qualify for a Habitat home, which requires a family to pay a no-interest loan on the home and donate 265 hours of their time to help build the house.

The Powells qualified, but there were still more obstacles to getting the house built—the water damaged home needed to be torn down, the lot needed to be raised above the flood line and money had to be raised to pay for the materials to construct a new home.

The local fire department stepped in and agreed to burn down the house as a training exercise, and the office of Minnesota Sen. Al Franken caught wind of the initiative and found a trucking firm to bring in the material needed to raise the lot above flood level.

Only raising the money to purchase the building materials is left, and that’s where Eller comes in.

He’s printed information about the Powell’s predicament on 4,000 flyers, which he plans to hand out to as many people as he can during his journey.

So far, Eller has raised about $3,400 for the project.

To make construction of the home come to fruition, Eller said he needs to collect about $60,000.

Eller said the Powells are good, hardworking people.

He noted that when the flood waters were starting to fill up their home, Crystal rushed to get as many belongings out of the house as possible, and in the process dislodged screws from her recently-broken ankle.

She dealt with the pain and went to work the next day.

“That compelling story of what a hard worker she was just touched my heart so deeply,” Eller said. “I thought, ‘This person will do nothing but succeed with a habitat for humanity home.’”

Those who would like to make a tax-deductible donation, which will be used to purchase materials to build the Powells a new house, can do so by mailing checks to P.O. Box 529, Cambridge, Mn. 55008. For more information, contact Wayne Eller, executive director of East Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity, at 763-689-0288 or [email protected]

People can also read more about Eller’s “Walk the Walk” journey at www.ecmhabitat.com.

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