Khue and Ka with their five children and Khue’s mother. Photo by John Kalson

By Nicole Sandler
Northside News

Chao and KaNhia and their daughter, Pang Dee. Photo by John Kalson

Habitat for Humanity of Dane County continues to do important and meaningful work as evidenced by the June 5 triple home dedication in the Northside’s Tennyson Ridge, a 12-house planned community. So far this year, Habitat for Humanity has finished building 11 new homes — 289 new homes since 1987 — and has now served 550 families (when including home repair projects) throughout Dane County.

Three families were welcomed to the community: couple Chao and KaNhia, Khue and Ka and their five children, and Kala and her two sons. All three families moved into their new homes in late June.

At the dedication event, the families generously opened their new homes to community members who attended. As the young children raced around the rooms, everyone was welcomed inside to tour the space and enjoy refreshments offered by each family. Ms. Greenhalgh’s third grade class at Lake View Elementary School walked down the street to share in the excitement, meet their new neighbors and present handmade welcome door hangers. 

Each Habitat family has a story to share about the journey leading to their home ownership. For Chao and KaNhia, their journey began in Laos, their native country, until they were displaced during the Vietnam War. After relocating to a refugee camp in Thailand, they arrived in the U.S. in 1996. They worked hard to raise their children — several now married with children of their own — and are thrilled to finally have a home to call their own.

Kala and her sons Jeremiah and Kyrie. Photo by John Kalson

Khue and Ka also spent time in a refugee camp in Thailand and were married there before moving to the U.S. in 2004. All five of their children were born here and have shared cramped quarters in an apartment since then. Having a spacious home of their own, in a safe community, has been a dream of the family since arriving in the U.S.

The third Habitat family, Kala and her two sons, are just as appreciative of the opportunity to own a home. As a child growing up in Madison, Kala moved from apartment to apartment and changed schools several times. “Owning a home has always been a dream that seemed just out of reach,” Kala explained. “Words cannot express how I feel. Beautiful things can happen when people with such big hearts come together and show so much compassion. It makes me see the beauty in the world.”

Tennyson Ridge is Habitat’s sixth planned community in Dane County and joins Northport Commons on Madison’s Northside. The affordable housing development was made possible by a $250,000 donation from Old National Bank. 

To apply for a Habitat home, each family or individual must meet certain requirements. The first entails attending a Habitat informational meeting. A prospective homeowner’s household income must be no higher than 60% of the Dane County median income, and applicants must reside in Dane County for 12 months prior to applying. Information about housing history, credit history and reasons for needing housing are also requested.

In addition to affording a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, Habitat homeowners are required to contribute sweat equity — a hallmark of the Habitat process. Families must put in 375 hours of sweat equity (325 hours for single-parent families) toward the building of their home over a 9‒12 month period. Community volunteers involved in building Habitat homes often find it inspiring to work side-by-side with the families for whom they’re building. 

If you meet any of the new Tennyson Ridge families in your neighborhood or at Northside events, be sure to offer a warm welcome to our community. Information about Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, eligibility and volunteer opportunities can be found at