How it began:
Herb and Bev Feierabend met Mabel Clare Proudley in 1988. They were Winter Texans living at Canyon Lake RV park. Herb had retired from the Ministry of the United Church of Christ. Mabel asked Herb and Bev to help someone build 3 houses in Nuevo Progreso and Herb got Delmar Oldenettel to go along and help. This was in March 1991.
In February 1992, Herb, Bev, Delmar and Lester Vetos built another house (it took 2 days). Then in 1993, the Feierabend children donated the money for a house to build in their parents name in honor of their 40th anniversary. That house was built on December 1, 1993 with 8 helpers from Canyon Lake. This was the start of our Canyon Lake House Building Project.
To begin with, the fund raising was mainly passing the hat at dances by Cheryl and Bob Norman and Betty 'Red' Endres acted as bookkeeper. Pancake dinners were also held to raise money.
In January 2008 the 300th house was built.
The first houses were built with dirt floors. Now each house is built of wood on a cement pad. Canyon Lake Builders give the family a box of food staples, quilts for each member of the family, which are made by the Canyon Lake Quilters, a Spanish Bible, appropriate clothing, Layettes, if needed and toys and other things that have been donated. Bill Phelps makes a wooden cross to hang on the wall, and a bench is given which is made by a Canyon Lake Builder with help from the wood shop. Each house is built on site and measures 12' X 16' with 1 door and 2 windows. The wall are unfinished. The roof is plywood, with rolled roofing nailed on. The windows are donated and slightly used. They are hauled down to Texas by our Builders from the Northern States.
To get all the supplies into Mexico, a 1984 Ford pickup was donated by James Irwin to Canyon Lake Builders, now known as Mabel's Building Mission. There is also a gas powered generator to run the saws.
Many families in Nuevo Progreso lease a small piece of property from the Mexican government known as a Colonia suburb for a monthly fee, depending on the size of the family. A family consisting of a husband wife and 6 children pay $15 per month. A Mexican National named Gloria Juarez Martinez, who lives in Progreso, speaks English and works with the Mayor's office to verify the needs of the people and that the proper lease papers are in place before the family is chosen to have a home built. A Winter Texan named Ross Carpenter supervises the building of the cement pad that is built by Mexicans and paid for by the builders.
The cost of building the homes has gone from about $400 to $1000+. This money comes from our park residents' generosity and also from their home churches and families and civic organizations. Our park has for a number of years sponsored auctions, dinners, and sales to raise money for these homes. No one receives a salary as everyone is a volunteer. We usually have over 100 different friends help each year. Then they go home and tell friends about what they do in the winter.
In a normal winter season, the builders complete about 25 houses. The group goes to Mexico every Tuesday and Thursday from November through February to build and work 2 or 3 hours to complete a house. The only requirement is to bring a hammer and be a resident of the park or supply funds for a house.
The Canyon Lake Quilters have made over 1,800 quilts, 250 baby quilts, and 300 layettes. They have also donated over 100 booties, 40 sweaters and 20 afghans.
An offshoot of the work in Nuevo Progreso has been helping families with a scholarship program to encourage school attendance, providing basic financial needs for the children to attend school. Geneva Duffield of Weslaco, TX works with Gloria Martinez to get money to the school.
We have donated sewn bags filled with toiletries, notebooks, pencils, crayons, underwear, socks, etc. to students. We also give special bags to the teachers. Teachers are required to buy all the supplies for the school on their meager salary. The text books are supplied by the government. The families must provide the required uniforms, water to drink and other necessary supplies. We also donated 4 large tables and 2 small tables to the elementary school from the Activities Committee at Canyon Lake.
The cooperation and camaraderie among the builders is heart warming and rewarding in being able to help those in Nuevo Progreso and colonias of Buena Vista and La Posta. The families that have been helped since 1991 have gotten a new sense of independence, security and courage to work to improve their economic condition.
Besides building homes, our builders have built outhouses, repaired classrooms, and built a 12' X 32' lunch room. The clothing distribution center was built on January 21, 2003. It was 20' X 19' with 6 small windows, 1 door, and 2 skylights on the clinic site. Clothes are distributed once a week from the center. They also built a 20' X 20' addition to a school and did repairs to other houses.