Community comes together to help family in need

Local builders and trades rallied around a family when their original contractor failed to finish the job
Aloha Builders, HBF and Valor Roofing were key in getting the Casillas family back home. (Photo: HBF)

Maria Casillas raised 10 children in her home in the Elyria neighborhood on the north side of Denver. When a stroke and heart attack left her requiring full-time care, her daughter, Martha Saucedo, returned with her children to the home she grew up in.

The tiny home needed an addition and other renovations to make room for everyone, so the family contacted a contractor.

“Right away, he knocked down the bathroom, the kitchen and the laundry room, so we had to leave,” Saucedo explained.

Over two years and $67,000 later, Casillas’ long-time home was still a shell. The contractor disappeared. Local news organizations covered the family’s struggle, while the home sat empty and unfinished.

Eric Semingsen, owner of Aloha Builders in Aurora, heard about Casillas’ struggle and wanted to help.

“Eric called me in March. Then Valor Roofing called me … and then the carpenters,” Saucedo said.

Semingsen was frustrated by how the family’s experience with a contractor hurt the industry’s reputation.

“It’s about integrity. It’s about professionalism and doing your job correctly. Professionalism, pride and integrity is something that’s dying these days and it’s really important to me to keep that old-school way,” Semingsen said at a ceremony celebrating the long-awaited renovations. “We get a bad rap as contractors because of guys like this.”

Semingsen’s company and a legion of other trades and volunteers joined in the effort to get Casillas and her family back in their home. The Home Builders Foundation used its network to bring together donors and volunteers who could help get the job done.

Brian Johnson, construction manager for the foundation, said, “At the HBF, we talk about the ripple effect, where if you help one person, you can help their family, and you help their community.”

Over 30 companies were involved in the project, which included the new addition, a new roof, siding and insulation, flooring, appliances and interior design. A new kitchen island was built using the home’s original floor joists.

  • The Casillas home in Elyria after a contractor abandoned the project. (Photo: HBF)

“From one major wrong, there’s been a lot of good,” Juan Arellano, special representative for the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said. “A wrong has been righted.”

Once HBF marshalled its supporters and partners, the home was finished in about nine months. Semingsen noted that the work could have been done in three months, but waiting on donations and coordinating volunteers’ schedules stretched the timeline out.

“It turned into a lot more than I expected. I basically flipped the whole house,” Semingsen said.

The project cost about $150,000, HBF’s Johnson said. About $120,000 was donated in labor and materials, and HBF was able to close the gap.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Eric Semingsen’s name. 

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