As I parked at the Mattawa Community Medical Clinic on the way to an interview, I saw a new apartment complex going up across the street on Columbia Avenue. I called City Hall to ask who was putting it up and learned it was Rafael Mendoza.
I wasnít surprised. Iíd spoken to Rafael before, when he was expanding and remodeling Mendozaís Market, which is now next door to the apartments.
Rafael is no longer an owner of the store. His brother, with whom he was a partner, owns that entire operation now.
Mendoza is building two four-plexes with the help of his wife Carmen. Friends drop by once in a while to lend a hand, but they are building the new apartments themselves. They are all two-bedroom units, and Rafael expects to rent them at about $825 a month.
This is a private project all the way, no government money involved. Thatís probably why itís been taking a while. Rafael continues to work where heís employed while building, and Carmen works mostly when he does.
ďOnce in a while, if there is something I can do without him, Iíll come here,Ē she said.
ďI ask for time off here and there,Ē Rafael said.
Rafael is not just a builder of housing; heís a community builder. He helped build and operate Mendozaís. Seeing that this town needs good, safe housing, heís doing his share.
The irony is that Rafael is not a trained carpenter, did not go to school to learn it, never worked on a construction crew. He did make furniture at one time.
ďItís like a big piece of furniture,Ē he said, smiling.
The Mendozas broke ground for the project in August. Theyíre probably halfway. The construction is as good as youíll see.
But Rafael did have an electrician do the wiring. He knew it would be done and pass inspection more quickly that way.
Rafael didnít say, but you can bet there is something ahead. Community builders build. Thatís what they do.