2 bad winters, a crime and a fire nearly stopped this housing project

Aire Gaye and Paw Baw Poe are getting ready to move into their new home on North Charles Street this month.

When they do, it will mark the end of the second largest Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity project in the organization’s 25-year history.

The White House Addition includes 24 homes along Charles Street, Adelia Court and George Court in Pasco.

That celebration could have easily not happened after a thief hooked up a pickup to the organization’s tool trailer and drove off with it.

After the truck and trailer got stuck near the edge of an onion field along Glade Road North, it caught fire destroying everything inside.

“One person described it like being kicked in the stomach,” Habitat’s Executive Director Theresa Richardson said. “We were under a lot of pressure. There were sizable granting dollars that required us to finish this project.”

The project started in 2013, and was already pushing against the deadline because of two hard winters — one in 2017 and another in 2019.

Without the tools they needed to finish the job, and facing an impending October deadline, organization leaders asked the community for help.

And they got it.

Pasco’s Lowe’s donated saws, drills and other tools, she said.

“They were first class tools,” she said. “Our volunteers are used to working with tools that are barely functional, so when they got these they were like giddy kids. It was like Christmas.”

On top of the donations, volunteers turned out in force to help them with finishing the building. Richardson said more than 600 people volunteered this year, an all-time high.

Still looking for the suspect

While Habitat for Humanity is finishing on time, Franklin County sheriff’s deputies have not found the man who grabbed the trailer.

Volunteers had wrapped up work at the homes around 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 1 and went home. Deputies discovered the fire shortly before 7 a.m. the next day.

When deputies arrived, they could see part of the charity’s logo through the flame and smoke.

Deputies scoured the area, but did not find a suspect.

While the organization is still compiling their expenses, between the insurance and the help from the community they believe they will be able to replace the trailer and the remaining tools, Richardson said.

If you would like to volunteer with Habitat, you can sign up online.

Anyone with questions can call 509-943-5555.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.