Volunteers halt work on replacement home

Construction has ground to a halt on the replacement home for a Rocky Mountain House-area single mother who lost her house in fire.

Connie VanderBaaren tends to her horse Biscuit near her still unfinished new home southeast of Rocky Mountain House.

Construction has ground to a halt on the replacement home for a Rocky Mountain House-area single mother who lost her house in fire.

Just days after the November 2010 fire that left Connie VanderBaaren, 50, and seven of her nine children homeless, the community rallied to help.

Because VanderBaaren did not have house insurance, homebuilder and friend Scott Collinson volunteered to build a new home on her 10-acre property.

About $200,000 through gifts in kind, labour and community fundraisers was raised to build the home.

Two bank accounts were set up for the family — one for building and another for the family’s immediate needs.

VanderBaaren and her children temporarily moved into a mobile home on Collinson’s property.

Collinson said on Monday he stopped working on the project last August because VanderBaaren took over the project herself.

The 1,500-square-foot home, located about five km southeast of Rocky, was left framed with some plumbing and some electrical work completed.

“She wanted to make changes to the house which would have fallen onto our expense,” said Collinson.

“We weren’t willing to afford those changes to what was already settled on for her home.”

VanderBaaren said she felt there was no communication about the progress on the house.

VanderBaaren said she was unhappy so she decided to “dis-entangle” herself from the project. She has since moved into other buildings on her property where she lives with eight of her children who range in ages from 10 to 20. Her eldest child, who is 24, does not live on the property.

“I wasn’t happy with the way things are going,” said VanderBaaren.

“I just left it not knowing what was going to happen. I figured if there were still people out there who wanted to help maybe they would show up. If not, I am not sure what I would do.”

VanderBaaren said the building fund account has been exhausted. She used the remaining funds to do what work she could by herself.

“I spent it. I turned in receipts and that money is all gone. I’ve done as much as I can to the point where it is at.”

VanderBaaren said she understands it’s a touchy situation because a lot of people donated time and money to the project.

While she does have odd jobs, VanderBaaren said she does not have the money nor the skills to finish the work herself. VanderBaaren said she is very appreciative of the community’s support but she is hesitant to ask the community to donate supplies or their time again.

“I’m afraid it is all going to be for naught if it isn’t finished,” said VanderBaaren. “And I’m stuck. I don’t have the resources to finish it myself.”

VanderBaaren works part time and does not receive social assistance.

In Clearwater County, homebuilders have on average a one-year development permit, and another year to build the home. Builders can usually ask for an extension if they exceed the two-year timeframe. There are no penalties unless someone submits a complaint to the county.

Anyone who wants to help can contact VanderBaaren at 403-844-2750.


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