The Heart Behind the House that Beer Built
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Janelle Morrison
Over the last few months, The House that Beer Built campaign has provided several local businesses and residents an opportunity to assist in building not just a physical house but a home for one soon-to-be-local mom, Sarah Burns, and her young daughter right here in Boone County.
Habitat for Humanity of Boone County (HFHBC) launched the House that Beer Built campaign in Boone County with construction on the house beginning this past June. What made this build unique from other HFHBC builds is that it involved several local restaurants and breweries in and around Boone County – too many to name here.
Participating breweries and restaurants partnered with HFHBC by hosting events where a portion of the proceeds went to the build or by donating a part or all of the proceeds of a “habitat” tap beer. The cost of construction for The House that Beer Built is $90,000, and that is being raised by the various fundraisers and generous donors.
One of those generous donors is Kent Esra. Esra and his wife, Liz, are the proprietors at Cobblestone, located in downtown Zionsville. “Sun King donated beer, and we have a tap that is the ‘Habitat Tap,’” Kent said. “If you order that beer, 100 percent of the proceeds are going to Habitat. As far as Habitat is concerned, it’s a cause that is important to me because I want to help people get a home. I’d like to keep it [Habitat Tap] going for a while and see what we can help raise.”
Sarah Burns is already a familiar face in Boone County. She is the Event Coordinator for the Parks Department at the Town of Whitestown. Burns has a 7-year-old daughter for whom she shares custody with her ex-husband.
“I got a really small apartment in Brownsburg after I got divorced, but the rent was astronomical, and I couldn’t afford to stay there,” Burns said. “I had to start looking for options.”
Burns quickly realized that her options for a clean, safe living environment were incredibly limited. At that time, she was also working at Books & Brews in Zionsville where she met a group of locals who have become her friends and champions throughout the build. Many have been key players in the fundraising efforts before they even knew that Burns would eventually be named the prospective homeowner.
Brad and Sally Mitchell, Zionsville residents and craft beer appreciators, met Burns at Books & Brews. “We originally got involved with the fundraising because of the beer part of it,” Brad said. “But when we came out and helped one weekend and then we came out for another weekend, we found out that once you go two weekends, you become invested in the outcome, so we kept coming back.”
Another member of Burns’ support group and fellow build member, Bob, a Zionsville resident, heard about the build through a friend and found the idea intriguing.
“We knew Sarah from Books & Brews and had told her that she needed to apply,” Bob said. “I had worked on a Habitat build in Milwaukee, WI, and was really wanting to do that more often, so it just so happened that I was able to put in the whole month of June working on the House that Beer Built and the Faith House. It has been a great experience.”
We heard from Burns’ friend, Roy, who lives in Whitestown and who is also part of the Tuesday evening group that meets at local breweries and enjoys raising money for this build.
“I met this group doing one of the things that we have in common, having a beer and we started talking about the House that Beer Built,” Roy said. “I had been let go from my job and had some time that I needed to fill with something. This [the build] was that something. I knew Sarah, and when I found out that she was going to be the homeowner, I was like ‘Wow.’ Having a hand in a house for someone that you personally know makes it even more special.”
Two more gentlemen weighed in on their experiences with Habitat and what being involved means to them. “I’m on staff with Habitat,” said Sonny, construction supervisor. “Being a part of it means a lot to me. I was a combat vet who came back home with severe PTSD and other medical problems. I wouldn’t even leave my home. Habitat actually saved my life. I meet a lot of good people through Habitat, and most of my friends are people that I’ve met through Habitat. It’s a wonderful experience being able to help people like Sarah.”
The last voice in the group, Brad, has been living in the area since 2000 and was involved with Habitat in Iowa where he is from. He has been an integral part of the fundraising efforts and in spreading the word among those in the local craft beer industry.
“I initially got involved with faith builds,” Brad said. “I got re-involved when I moved here, and I knew that there were enough people interested in craft beer with big hearts who have been involved with Habitat before, so I thought that if we got the Boone County brewers on board and then got the word out so we could then leverage with breweries in Indianapolis and surrounding areas, it would be a successful grassroots effort.”
Burns would like to thank all of her friends, family and the countless strangers who have donated their money, their time and their hearts to making this dream of homeownership a reality for her and her daughter.
“Since my divorce, I’ve been in this period of transition,” she said. “It causes a lot of anxiety not having a place where you feel that you belong, like this is my ‘home.’ Habitat has really allowed me to find that, and I want to thank my family, friends and all of the people who have donated and who have come out to work on my house. They have put their love into this house. I honestly never plan on moving from this house ever because so much love, dedication and support have gone into putting this house together. It’s more than a house to me. I feel like I’ve found my home.”