A place to grow and thrive -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

A place to grow and thrive

Leaving for work, Ruben Gonzales kisses his wife Alice and says goodbye to Alexia, 11, Alecia, 9, and Alvin, 5.

Five-year-old son Alvin can’t wait to move into his Habitat house.

“Ever since we found out we had been selected my son has come home every day and said, ‘Mom, I want to go to our new house,’” Alice Gonzalez said. “I say, ‘OK, son, but we have to build it first!’”

Ruben and Alice Gonzalez and their five children live with her mother in overcrowded conditions in a house that is literally crumbling around them.

“We just don’t have enough space here,” Mrs. Gonzalez said. “Things are falling apart. We do try to repair things, but once you repair something you have to repair something else and it’s a continuous process.”

The family team

Although they struggle daily to make repairs to the home, Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez and their children -- 14-year-old Alex ,who is a student ambassador with People to People, 11-year-old Alexia, 9-year-old Alicia, Alvin and Alliyah,10 months -- have remained close-knit and are always willing to share what they have with others, including volunteering in their community.

“We are a team,” said Mrs. Gonzalez of her husband and children. “We are family-oriented people. I just try to be happy and spread my happiness to other people, no matter what the situation.”

The Gonzalez family’s Habitat for Humanity journey began when Mrs. Gonzalez’s cousin, a regular customer of the Los Angeles Area HFH Home Improvement Store, put the family on a list for a partner family orientation session.

“We had been looking for a house for some time and the prices were unbearable,” said Mrs. Gonzalez. “When we found out about the Habitat program we said, ‘Let’s try it.’”

Hey, neighbor

And so they did -- and were accepted to be one of 30 families building homes during the 2007 Jimmy Carter Work Project in Los Angeles.

“We are overjoyed and excited and happy and all of the above,” said Mrs. Gonzalez of their partnership with Habitat. “We’re looking forward to doing our sweat-equity hours. We’re ready.

“It blew us away,” continued Mrs. Gonzalez, remembering the moment she found out that her family had been selected to become Habitat homeowners at a gathering held by the Los Angeles affiliate. “Your emotions just overcame you. It was amazing because the people started meeting and greeting with each other and saying, ‘Hey, neighbor!’ We started bonding with our future neighbors. Every time we have a meeting we bond and tell each other that we’re looking forward to being neighbors.

“We’re still like, ‘Is this real?’” said Mrs. Gonzalez in disbelief. “We’ve always wanted our own home. As you can see I have a lot of children, so they are going to need space!”

Mrs. Gonzalez said that their Habitat home will provide the space that her children need to grow and thrive.

“We have to teach our children how to deal with life,” she said. “Our main objective is to make our children comfortable and to prepare them for their future.”