STAFF / NEW MEXICO / Philanthropy

Love & fun at Taos House No. 29

Story by Milli Thornton. Photos Copyright © Milli Thornton.

As a DJ on Luna 103.7 FM in Taos, New Mexico, I cover a lot of announcements from sponsors and community groups. Whenever I can, I like to find a personalized way to put it across to my listeners. Often that means visiting a website so I can learn more myself. On special occasions, for something that really captures my imagination, it means going on site.

When I saw an announcement in my DJ folder for a “Build Taos” event for Habitat for Humanity of Taos, I immediately felt drawn to it. For several days that week I was busy announcing on Luna that volunteers were wanted to work on House No. 29 for two days, Friday and Saturday, and I wondered if I could be of any use to them. I knew I’d be working all day on Friday, and then traveling to Albuquerque on Saturday for my grandson’s birthday party.

Then I heard a passionate interview with Habitat’s local executive director, Cynthia Arvidson, on Luna’s sister station, KTAOS 101.9 FM. Cynthia gave big, juicy clues about how anyone can be a volunteer, even if you only have an hour to spare. That gave me an idea.

The build site for House No. 29

The build site for House No. 29

On Friday morning, I left for the radio station 30 minutes early and drove to the build site for House No. 29. I was planning to donate a pallet of drinking water and some sunscreen. A small contribution, but at least I could be there for a few minutes and show my support. And everybody needs to stay hydrated and protect from sunburn, especially when working outside in our mountain-desert climate.

As I drove to the build site playing Luna on my car radio, I felt good about figuring out a way to give to this wonderful organization with my limited time.

But this was small compared to how I felt when I got there. I was personally greeted by Volunteer Coordinator Susan Nuss, who made me feel GREAT about showing up and bringing the water and sunscreen! Susan enthusiastically introduced me to several of the folks who were already there waiting to go to work. Then Susan took me on a tour of the house, which they’re hoping to complete by Christmas so the Mares Family can move in.

Volunteers assembling for the first day of Build Taos

Volunteers assembling for the first day of Build Taos

Of course, it was fascinating to see the interior of the house, the layout of the rooms, the stunning view of Taos Mountain from the master bedroom, and the pile of adobe bricks being hand-made by volunteers. But the tour would not have been nearly as heartwarming and motivational without hearing the personal story of the Mares Family and Susan’s warm and friendly speaking style.

View of Taos Mountain from the master bedroom, complete with wheelbarrows

View of Taos Mountain from the master bedroom,
complete with wheelbarrows

Adobe bricks, hand-made with love

Adobe bricks, hand-made with love

True to the motto of Habitat for Humanity—“It’s a hand up, not a hand out”—I learned that the mom of the Mares Family, who is the head of the household, was required to put a reasonable down payment towards the house, the mom and kids are required to put their own “sweat equity” into the house, and once they move in there will be an affordable monthly mortgage payment.

The required sweat equity sounded to me like the perfect way for the Mares Family to bond with the volunteers and professional builders who are constructing their home. When I shared that thought out loud, Susan pointed out the messages of support applied graffiti-style to wall boards that will eventually be covered by internal walls, sealing these messages of love into the house forever.

Messages of support for the Mares  Family, to be sealed into the house for posterity

Messages of support for the Mares Family,
to be sealed into the house for posterity

I was so inspired by my visit to the build site for House No. 29, I wanted to get more involved with Habitat for Humanity. When I mentioned that I might be able to help them with their website updates, Susan gave me such a genuine, caring hug I felt like my fifteen minutes of showing support were rewarded tenfold! If I can give and get this much love in such a short interaction, imagine what Habitat for Humanity can do for my life with repeated exposure.

You can glean from that statement how much Habitat is helping the true beneficiaries: the families themselves. This is an invaluable way to “break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness.”

And it’s FUN! I haven’t met the Mares Family (yet) but I know they could not walk onto their own build site without having fun and feeling like they’re part of a larger family.



Habitat for Humanity of Taos – Facebook

Habitat for Humanity of Taos – Website

International Website

Milli Thornton

Milli Thornton


Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing: putting the fun back into writing! She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli also blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and coaches writers at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.



  1. Ann Mc says:

    What a wonderful thing you’ve done, Milli! Not only a service announcement on the radio, but here on Millivers Travel as well. The water and sunscreen was an amazing idea and I’m humbled by your message. Hugs to you – you’ve brightened my day!

  2. I love it! The girls and I have participated in Habitat’s “Women Build” here (plus other HH houses), but the adobe home is especially exciting to see. Just another reminder that I need to visit Taos!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *