March 18, 2015

Ask anyone who knew or worked with the late DPR employee John Kramer, and they’ll tell you he was a man with a big heart and a passion for helping out those in need.

To honor the memory of this beloved colleague – and to carry on his legacy of community service – DPR Sacramento office employees partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help finance and build a new house for a carefully selected low-income, hard-working resident of the greater Sacramento region. About 20 DPR employees volunteered a total of 500 hours over the course of several months to help bring the project to fruition. They worked alongside the future homeowner, Mizan Tsegay, who also put in 500 hours of sweat equity helping construct her new Del Paso Heights home.

The new homeowner and her children in front of their home. DPR Sacramento volunteers put more than 500 hours of work into the project. Photo credit: Habitat for Humanity.

On March 7, representatives from DPR, Habitat for Humanity, the new homeowner and her family, news crews and others gathered to officially dedicate this 110th house completed by Habitat in the Sacramento region. In addition to handing over the keys to the new homeowner, a commemorative plaque was presented by DPR co-founder Peter Nosler which dedicated the home “to the memory of John Kramer, a most generous and caring friend.”

DPR co-founder Peter Nosler presents the homeowner with a commemorative plaque to honor the memory of DPR employee John Kramer. Photo credit: asb-photography.

Realizing a Dream

The brand new two-story, 1,500-sq.-ft. house represents the fulfillment of an American dream that had previously seemed far out of reach for the Tsegay family. An immigrant to the U.S. from Kenya, Tsegay is a single mom raising two young children that include a 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter with special needs. The family moved to the new home from a cramped apartment, from which Tsegay had run her home hair salon business while also tending to her daughter who requires constant supervision due to her severe autism.

Both Tsegay and John Kramer’s widow, Dory, shared their perspectives on what the project meant to them during the home dedication ceremony. The opportunity to hear Tsegay’s story and to work alongside her building the house made it that much more special for the DPR volunteers, according to Megan Valles, who along with Rodman Marquez helped spearhead DPR’s volunteer efforts.

The new homeowner shared some of her life story with the assembled crowd. Photo credit: asb-photography.

“We all talk about the ‘American dream,’ but I don’t think most of us having grown up here in America quite appreciate that as much as people from other countries,” Valles commented. “For Mizan it is very much about hard work and having a safe and stable home for her family. You really feel like you are a part of giving his incredible gift to this woman. I don’t think there was a dry eye there when she was speaking.”

Hand-Up, Not a Hand-Out

As a national nonprofit organization committed to helping low-income, working residents achieve home-ownership, Habitat’s stated goal is to serve as “an empowerment program, not an entitlement program, giving people a hand-up not a hand-out.” Homeowners participate in the home-building process and must be able to pay their 30-year, zero interest mortgages.

DPR volunteers’ efforts spanned four full workdays, where crews of 10 did everything from pre-framing walls off-site and then erecting them on-site after the slab was poured, to building a perimeter fence, installing wood siding and more. In addition to providing valuable skilled labor, DPR donated $21,000 to facilitate the John Kramer Memorial Build project. Because the organization was one that John Kramer had personally been involved with and supported, the project was a fitting way to honor him. “It’s something he would be proud of,” Valles said.

John Kramer's extended family, DPR volunteers and the new homeowner and her son pose with the plaque commemorating his legacy. Photo credit: asb-photography.

Continuing a Legacy

Although this was DPR’s first Habitat for Humanity project in the Sacramento region, it will certainly not be its last, according to Valles. “One of the things I think is so cool about having done this is that John’s legacy will extend beyond this new home on Oakmont Street, because DPR plans to continue our partnership with Habitat and through other local work projects,” she said.

“I think what Habitat is doing in our local community is definitely something we want to be a part of,” she added. “We are kind of uniquely suited to do this.”