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First Cottage Grove Habitat for Humanity project dedicated

Tajudin Belayneh (middle) thanks the dozens of area volunteers who helped build his home while his wife, Radiya Tolla, smiles and listens to remarks Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)1 / 4
Tajudin Belayneh (left) and his brother-in-law, Hussien Tolla, glance at the framed “Golden Rule” plaque presented to each family by representatives of Habitat for Humanity Saturday. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)2 / 4
Site supervisor Melissa Steiner speaks to those gathered at the house dedication ceremony Saturday which welcomed four families to the Mississippi Dunes neighborhood. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)3 / 4
Friends, loved ones, local representatives and Habitat for Humanity volunteers pack the Kulbado/Wolde family’s townhome Saturday as part of a multi-home dedication ceremony. The end unit is one of four built as part of one Habitat for Humanity project in Cottage Grove. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)4 / 4

Mihret Wolde walked through her brand new, unfurnished living room last week, and holding the hand of her 4-year-old son, Robel, she smiled, and pointed out the backyard where her two boys would soon play.

She spoke softly but the look on her face couldn’t hide the excitement she felt as she toured her family’s first home to themselves.

Wolde and her family, who emigrated from Ethiopia several years ago, were one of four to receive the keys to their new home in Mississippi Dunes Saturday, which was built by dozens of Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

Area residents, local officials and friends and loved ones of the four families attended the house dedication ceremony, complete with traditional Ethiopian food and words of gratitude.

Throughout the last several months, people from around Cottage Grove and the metro area — including religious organizations, businesses and corporations, women’s groups and students — picked up tools to build homes for families in need. They braved sweltering heat in the summer, frigid winter temperatures and a rainy last couple of weeks, but completed the set of four attached townhomes earlier this month.

Andrew Truckenmiller, 17, a junior at Edina High School, helped with the Cottage Grove build in November and came back in March. He was on drywall duty, he said. As a seasoned volunteer who has helped on many Habitat for Humanity builds across the metro and one in Alabama, Truckenmiller said he is always excited to meet the families.

“It’s a great experience to see the home when it’s complete and think about how much it’s going to help the family,” he said.

Volunteers built four attached townhome units, each with several bedrooms.

Tajudin Belayneh, his wife, Radiya Tolla, and their three small children closed on their home earlier this week. Belayneh, who chased his son around the front lawn, said he is excited to have a safe place for his family to live.

“We are very excited to be here in Cottage Grove,” he said. “I can’t wait until we can move in.”

Friends and family of the new homeowners attended the dedication ceremony and offered hugs and words of support. Staff from the build also spoke, including site supervisor Melissa Steiner, who oversaw the four homes’ construction from the beginning.

“This has been a long time in the making,” Steiner said. “It’s the start of a new day here in Cottage Grove.”

This is the first Habitat for Humanity project in Cottage Grove and the organization has already broken ground on the second project several hundred feet away. Throughout the next two years, volunteers will complete two more multi-unit attached townhomes, three altogether.

Tazvitya “Archie” Makayi and his wife Makanyara Chizema emigrated to the United States almost a decade ago from Zimbabwe. With two teenagers, one in college and one about to graduate from Tartan High School, the couple said the house built by volunteers will help not only secure their future, but also the future of their children.

“This is something we never thought would happen,” Makayi said. “Our dream of owning our own home is because of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and today it has come true.”