After a terrible fire a year ago, Glenda and Scott Mason were left without a home. They decided to donate the land to provide a home for someone else.
A fire on Oct. 25, 2018, destroyed their two-story house at 212 E. 12th St., where the Masons lived for 30 years.
Signs of that house are now gone. In its place, students from the Career Pathways Institute are busy building a new one.
The Masons, who have been married 29 years, donated the lot to Grand Island Area Habitat for Humanity. Next year, the new home will be filled with a family of five — two adults and three kids.
The Masons, both 60, say there’ll be some good neighbors there to welcome them.
“I just hope that they have a good time here and make as many memories as we did,” Scott said.
The Masons were in bed, asleep, when they became aware of the fire at 12:15 a.m. The fire probably originated with a cigarette. Something hot started the leaves on fire under their front porch.
Glenda awoke to the sound of popping and cracking.
“And I thought my cat was doing something that she shouldn’t be.”
When she turned to yell at Zipper, the cat, Glenda first thought “my porch light was on. And then I saw the flames.” As she saw flames, “the shade melted away from the window,” she said. “We barely got out of our bedroom. The front of the house imploded.”
After the fire was extinguished, the house was still standing. But their belongings were mostly destroyed.
They weren’t able to salvage much. “We lost everything,” she said.
The smell of smoke was strong in the items they did try to save.
The Masons were the only ones home at the time of the fire. Son Jeremiah, 40, lives in Missouri.
The insurance company didn’t want to pay for a new basement. “So we would have had to put a basement under it,” Glenda said. “We decided we’d just buy a house somewhere else.”
They now live in Wood River. “We’re small-town people,” Scott said. “I’m from Sargent. She’s from Ainsworth.”
The couple decided to donate the lot “pretty much right away — as soon as we decided to buy somewhere else,” Glenda said.
The insurance company “bought our house for us basically,” she said. “Our insurance company took very good care of us, and we didn’t feel right about profiting from this.”
The Masons are big believers in Habitat for Humanity. “It’s a good program,” Scott said.
They decided that someone else could benefit. “Our bad could turn into their good,” she said.
The Masons are secure. “I’ve been blessed enough to have the same job for 33 years with a good company,” said Scott, who works in fabrication at Chief Industries.
Donating the lot to Habitat is “something extra nice that they’ve done, that they’ve turned their tragedy into something positive,” said Dana Jelinek of Habitat for Humanity.
The Masons even paid for the property’s demolition and cleanup. It was all ready for construction. “So we didn’t have to worry about anything,” Jelinek said.
The house is being built by two principles of construction classes at Career Pathways Institute. One class meets in the morning and one is in the afternoon. Each class works for three hours at a time every other day.
Most of the students doing the work Wednesday afternoon were juniors. The work began in early September. Completion is expected in March.
“We started with all the concrete work — footings, foundation, crawl space floor, driveway, things like that,” said teacher Brett Forsman. “Now we’re just getting to the wall-framing part of it.”
The one-story home will total a little more than 1,000 square feet, with three bedrooms and a bath.
The job teaches the first-year students about “functioning on a job site — learning what a construction site is and how to function on one of them,” Forsman said.
For many, it’s the first time they “have experienced construction and have done a whole build like this. A lot of them have a little bit of experience here and there — roofing, siding, stuff like that. But this is the first time that they’ve seen a project through all the way.”
When the new house is done, “They should be very proud of it,” Forsman said. “I talk about it all the time with my students.”
Ten or 15 years from now, they’ll drive by the Habitat project and say, “I built that house.”
In April, Habitat for Humanity selected five households to be future Habitat home buyers. “And one of those families is in line to purchase this house,” Jelinek said. The family has completed 18 weeks of home ownership education. “And they’ve been working diligently on their 500 hours of sweat equity,” she said. That time is usually spent working on other people’s houses.
Somebody told Glenda Mason that all of her memories are gone.
She doesn’t agree. Her stuff might be gone. “My memories are with me forever.”
They lost most of their pictures. “All my dad’s stuff is gone. All his dad’s stuff is gone.” But their memories are intact. “The biggest thing is we got out,” she said.