STAGECOACH -- When John and Brandy Calvet heard about the 49 families who have helped build their own homes through the Mutual Self-Help Housing program from a friend, they didn't believe him.
"I just couldn't believe what he was telling us," said John. "I thought he was telling us a lie."
On Saturday, the Calvets were breaking ground on Anderson Court in Stagecoach -- the site where they will help build their home.
"I've been praying for something like this," John said. "I can't believe it's happening."
"It's happened 49 times. It's gonna happen," said Mark Patty, construction supervisor for Citizens for Affordable Homes Inc. CAHI is a nonprofit corporation helping low-income families become home builders and owners.
The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development department, which provides low-interest mortgages to participating families.
Rural Housing Director Bill Brewer was on Anderson Court Saturday. The site -- the first of its kind in Stagecoach -- will feature four new homes, which should be finished between six and nine months after they're started.
"This is no free handout," he said. "They really put in the labor to build their own homes."
Gazing across the open land under brilliant blue skies, Brewer admired the space.
"These are nice big lots. These folks are really going to enjoy some elbow room out here."
Karen Meredith, a Nevadan for 30 years, will be building on a site near the Calvets.
"John and Brandy are over there by Anderson Drive," she pointed, walking off the pavement and onto a site marked with flags. "And this is my driveway!"
She said she was excited to walk her wire-hair pointer Cocoa into the hills past the end of Boyer Lane.
"The group that we've got going is just great. We're real tight-knit," she said. Along with the Calvets, who have custody of their nephew, Brandon Powers, and Meredith, others building on the site include Deanna Shortt and Eileen Halen and her children Joshua, Ryan and Rachel.
Meredith said they plan to work together on building, landscaping and sprinkler systems.
"About 65 percent of the work is done by us," explained Brandy Calvet. One requirement of the program is that participants volunteer 35 hours of labor each week on their house.
"We won't have time for anything else," John Calvet said.
Also working at the site will be youth from the Rite of Passage camp on Johnson Lane. Volunteers from the public are welcome to help with construction.
"The more volunteers we have the faster they'll get built," said John Calvet.
CAHI Project Manager Tom Finch was at the groundbreaking in Stagecoach Saturday. He is currently working on a site in Dayton.
"I like it when the families move in and the children are riding their bikes in the streets," he said, looking at young Rachel Halen. "It won't be long."
You can help
For details about the Mutual Self-Help Housing program or to volunteer, call 883-7101.