Carmel Valley teen’s benefit concert in Solana Beach to raise money to build a home for a needy family


By Kristina Houck

Kirsten Chaplin helped build a community center last spring for families in Tijuana. The experience inspired the Carmel Valley resident to raise funds to help another family in need.

“It was the most amazing experience in my life,” said Chaplin, a sophomore at Canyon Crest Academy. “The people there are just so genuine. The kids especially touched my heart.”

In coordination with Casas de Luz, the 15-year-old is organizing a benefit concert on Aug. 24 to raise $4,500 to build a home for a family in Tijuana. Funds raised at the concert will benefit Casas de Luz, a nonprofit social action project based out of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach.

“Community service is really important to me,” said Chaplin, a sophomore at Canyon Crest Academy. “I enjoy giving back to the community any way I can.”

After Chaplin volunteered with Casas de Luz to build a community center, she approached Kathy Faller, the founder and executive director, with a proposal to raise funds to build another dwelling in Tijuana.

“She is so committed to building this house,” said Faller, a Solana Beach resident and 15-year member of UUFSD. “It’s beautiful.”

Faller was inspired to create Casas de Luz after she participated in a home build with another nonprofit. UUFSD built the organization’s first home in 2005.

Since then, Casas de Luz has constructed 20 homes and two community centers, which serve breakfast to children and offer afterschool programs. The organization also brings weekly donations of construction materials, furniture and other household goods to families in Tijuana.

“We build homes for families that need a secure structure for their family — a place that’s dry and a place for their kids to get a good night’s sleep before they go to school,” Faller said.

It takes at least 15 people to build a 16-by-20 home, Faller said. Homes are painted and feature drywall, electricity, windows and roof shingles. At the end of a build, which takes two days, the volunteers gather in a circle to pass the keys around to the family.

“It’s transformational for me, it’s transformational for all the builders, and of course, it’s transformational for the families,” Faller said. “Everybody has tears in their eyes. It’s a very heartwarming and emotional experience.”

All proceeds from the “Building with Energy” concert will benefit the volunteer-run organization. The concert will feature folk-pop duo The Lovebirds and singer-songwriter Dawn Mitschele.

“It’s going to be a really fun night,” Chaplin said. “It’s a great way for people to come together and help me build this house. I can’t do it without them and their donations.”

The concert begins at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito located at 1036 Solana Drive in Solana Beach. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at

For more information about Casas de Luz, visit