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Meet Habitat’s first homeowner, Tina Stuhr

The house at 1121 10th Ave N might look like your average split-level Onalaska home. But it’s so much more than that. Built by volunteers over 30 years ago, this is the first Habitat for Humanity home in the Greater La Crosse Region.

Tina Stuhr and her family moved into the house in October 1992. Tina recently stopped by Habitat’s offices to reminisce about the 10th Avenue house, her experience building the home, and what it meant to her and her family. Oh, and she got to check in with her niece Amy, who happens to be Habitat’s Sustainability Director.

Onalaska Community Life article covering the groundbreaking ceremony at 1121 10th Ave N, July 1992
Onalaska Community Life article covering the groundbreaking ceremony at 1121 10th Ave N, July 1992

The Habitat process

We asked Tina what it was like to learn she'd been selected for a Habitat house: "I got the call, got off the phone, screamed, and called everyone I knew!"

Tina and her husband Mike were raising three kids together. They worked during the day and went to college at night. So the new house was “definitely a springboard.” After moving in, both Tina and Mike graduated from college, their careers took off, and they were able to focus on their family.

"It changed everything," Tina says. The Habitat model provides a stable, safe environment and guarantees and affordable monthly payment.

Building together

Newspaper articles chronicling the story of 1121 10th Ave sound pretty familiar to all of us at Habitat. They chronicle volunteers coming together, local businesses making donations, and the future homeowners showing up to put in their sweat equity hours.

One October 1992 La Crosse Tribune notes, “In the bedroom Saturday, two college students were staining woodwork. Another man was working in the basement. An electrician was installing some fixtures. And downstairs, Tina was finishing a wall.”

Tina remembers being onsite as often as she possibly could. Her family and friends provided meals for volunteers throughout construction process. It was a true team effort that resulted in a beautiful, comfortable home for the family of five.

Fast forward 30 years

Tina and her big extended family—the ones who helped build the house, provide treats, and support her along the way—still call the La Crosse area home. One member of that family, her niece Amy Smith, found herself on Habitat’s staff exactly 30 years after her Auntie Tina moved into her Habitat home.

“I get goosebumps thinking about it,” says Habitat Executive Director Kahya Fox. In the three decades between Tina’s homecoming and Amy’s hire, Habitat has grown in countless ways. We’ve moved from a fledgling volunteer-run organization to an experienced, well-respected leader in the housing space.

Amy serves as Habitat’s Sustainability Director. She oversees all our sustainable projects and partnerships, including our groundbreaking ReNew the Block program. Her role showcases how much Habitat has evolved in the last thirty years. We now count neighborhood revitalization, stormwater mitigation, and energy efficient construction among our areas of expertise.

Still, our work remains focused on the original mission that brought Tina to Habitat in the first place: providing safe, affordable homeownership opportunities for families in our community.

Amy (L) and Tina (R) at Habitat's offices, March 2024
Amy (L) and Tina (R) at Habitat's offices, March 2024

1121 10th Ave Gallery

Partner Family

Darshida has been working to become a homeowner for years. She is a passionate nurse, a dedicated mother to four boys, and a longtime La Crosse resident. After years of hard work and unforeseen obstacles, Darshida and her family moved into their new home in spring 2023.

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