(Alexandria, MN) At the end of a long road, with many bumps along the way, is the home Chelsey Koopman has been dreaming of. The road is figurative, as her new Habitat for Humanity home is just off of Latoka Beach Drive. Her journey getting here has been anything but easy.
Chelsey began down the path to home ownership with her husband Joe a long time ago. Finally the couple learned that their hope of a new home would come about with help from the Douglas County Habitat for Humanity program in late 2018.
Going into the process, the couple already had some challenges. Joe enlisted in the U.S. National Guard back in 1996. He was deployed twice, once to Kuwait in 2004-2005 and again in 2011-2012 to Iraq.
Chelsey married Joe on September 11th, 2010. He had a wonderful daughter named Abby (Abigail) from a previous relationship. Soon the couple had a beautiful daughter of their own name Mya, followed by the birth of Mataya in September of 2017. Little Mataya had a myriad of medical issues right from the start. Among the challenges was Hydrocephlus (extra fluid on and in her brain), a tethered spinal cord, missing discs in her lower spine, an absent spleen, a bicuspid aortic valve, a non functioning cystic kidney, her liver was not in the appropriate place but is functioning properly (heterotaxy), and dislocated hips and a club foot. Multiple surgeries, medical visits, medications, etc. were and are still required. Although an enormous undertaking the couple continued moving forward, and persisted in their dream of owning their own home. Only two days after Chelsey gave a moving speech of appreciation for the chance to purchase a home at the annual Habitat for Humanity Hard Hat Breakfast, Joe died in a car crash May 17th near Minneota.
His death was and is a tremendous cross to bear, yet Chelsey has been lifted up by hundreds of community members along with her own unyielding spirit to pursue their shared dream.
Much of Joe's family attended the dedication. His sister, Corinne Renken, talks about joy amid the tears during the ceremony.
The Habitat for Humanity build project was designated as a "Women's Build"; meaning much of the work is done by women in the community. Hundreds of women and a number of men have put in countless hours to make it happen. Despite the challenges of being a mother with a child with additional care needs, Chelsey has also put in more than 200 hours of sweat equity. The overflowing support from other women (and men) in the community has made the process easier than she imagined.
For Habitat for Humanity's Home Owner Services Coordinator Denise Schapekahm her first day on the job was this past July on the site of the Koopman home. The whole process has been eye-opening and uplifting to her in her role with Habitat for Humanity.
Construction manger for HFH, Randy Hansen says the women working on the project were incredible encouragers.
The Koopman's mentors during the project were Rich and Jennifer Rentz. The couple began working with Joe and Chelsey late last year. Jennifer says that through the hard times she was amazed at Chelsey's attitude.
A ribbon-cutting and open house was held outside the Koopman home at 2713 Latoka Beach Road on Monday, followed by a dedication ceremony at Lake Community Church. As a veteran, Joe would have appreciated the celebration taking place on Veterans Day. Some minor work remains at the new home, but the family plans to close on the house in early December and move in just in time to enjoy the holiday season.....at home.
Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County has been extremely helpful, yet with Mataya's health needs it is nearly impossible for Chelsey to return to work. Without Joe's income, the realization of the home is yet another challenge. A trust for the Koopmans has been set up at Glenwood State Bank in Alexandria. If you'd like to make a donation it can be sent there in care of the Koopman Family Trust.