Using Quake Rubble to Help Rebuild


Out of those ubiquitous roadside heaps of rubble and rubbish--the castoffs and detritus of the Northridge earthquake--homes for the needy are being rebuilt, thanks to Habitat for Humanity and an Agoura Hills construction company.

Western Builders Group Inc., a general contractor specializing in earthquake repairs, and Habitat for Humanity, an international volunteer organization that builds low-income housing, have created a way to recycle appliances and building materials: Salvage the stuff and give it to people who can’t afford to replace their own.

“It’s kinda neat,” said Don Doty, co-owner of Western Builders. “And it truly doesn’t cost anybody anything. It’s no problem for us to take a dishwasher or a toilet that has been slightly damaged--or maybe just has cosmetic damage--and just set it aside, instead of throwing it out. Then, we can repair it and install it in the home of someone who really needs it.”


Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 by former President Jimmy Carter to give needy families a chance to own their own homes, on the condition that they help in the construction work themselves. The group uses volunteer labor along with donated materials and professional help to build the houses.

Nanci Mavar, earthquake recovery program manager for Habitat’s regional branch, said Western Builders is the only contractor to offer comprehensive building and repair services to her branch of the organization, which focuses on earthquake repairs for the needy in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.

“We do a lot of the work ourselves,” said Mavar, a general contractor. “Occasionally, we get a plumber here and there to help, but we’ve never had anything like their offer for help before.

“The amazing thing about Western (Builders) is that they can help us do everything. They have interior designers, soil engineers, structural engineers. In this business, you usually have to beg, borrow and steal to get projects completed. But these guys came to us and said: ‘How can we help?’ ”

So far, Habitat and Western Builders have teamed up on more than 40 projects in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys.

“The people who work with us, they feel it’s great getting these families back into their own houses,” said Don Nathaniel, the other owner of Western Builders. “The families are so very grateful. Even the families’ kids get involved in the work. It really doesn’t run us that much in cost. It’s just work.”


Mavar said Western Builders and Habitat will begin their latest project--rebuilding the red-tagged San Fernando home of a 30-year-old blind man and his blind mother--as soon as possible.

“These people have been waiting and waiting for their federal reimbursement,” Mavar said. “They’ve appealed and appealed, and they still have not received it. These people are blind and out of a home. What’s up with that? We’re at the point where we’re just going to do it, even though the family doesn’t have the money yet to repay.”

For more information about Habitat for Humanity’s earthquake recovery program, call (800) 266-7047.