Community members gathered in Lincoln Park on Sunday afternoon to dedicate the first Habitat for Humanity house in Duluth in more than a decade.
Salaam Witherspoon and her two children, ages 8 and 6, moved into the two-story, three-bedroom house at 2412 W. First St. about five weeks ago.
“I’m just thankful,” Witherspoon said. “It gave me and my children the opportunity to be homeowners and (to have) a place that we can grow old in, and pass it down through the generations.”
Lake Superior College construction instructor John Calcaterra volunteered his time to design the house, and students from the school’s construction program spent the 2018-19 academic year building it. Students from the Duluth school district also helped at the site, which had been a vacant, tax-forfeited lot.
Additional financial support came from three Rotary Clubs in Duluth as well as Wells Fargo, Minnesota Power and Essentia Health.
David Clanaugh, executive director for Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity, said the Witherspoon house is the first one that Habitat for Humanity has built in Duluth since 2008.
He noted that there are challenges to building homes on hilly, rocky terrain such as in Duluth, and community support is crucial to move plans forward.
“We need to build in Duluth; we need housing,” Clanaugh told the crowd on Sunday. “We need the partnerships here to make it happen. … We haven't built a house for a long time in the community, and it's not for a lack of desire or trying or believing.
“I'm sort of tired of talking about how long it's been since we built a house,” he said before gesturing behind him. “Because, we have built a house in Duluth!”
The Witherspoon house is the first Habitat house in Duluth in years, but it won’t be the last. The group is working on a second house in West Duluth, at 5708 W. Eighth St.
The Rev. Carolyn Mowchan of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Duluth and other church members presented the Witherspoon family with handmade quilts as a welcome present.
Afterward, a red ribbon was stretched across the threshold to the home’s front porch, which Witherspoon’s young daughter cut amid applause.
Duluth city councilors Noah Hobbs and Joel Sipress attended Sunday’s dedication, along with St. Louis County commissioners Mike Jugovich and Beth Olson. Duluth City Council candidate Janet Kennedy also attended, as well as Claudie Washington from the Duluth NAACP.
The dedication was bookended by an invocation and benediction from the Rev. Nathan Sager of Spirit of God Lutheran Church in Duluth.