Habitat houses -- dedicated with love -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Habitat houses -- dedicated with love

Homeowners Manuel Hernandez and his daughter Mayra Hernandez share a prayer along with volunteers during the dedication of their new house.

Touching the hearts of homeowners, volunteers and Habitat for Humanity staff, dedication ceremonies give everyone the chance to say good-bye.

For the Jimmy Carter Work Project 2007, all the houses aren’t finished, but the volunteers’ work week ended Friday afternoon. Symbolic dedication ceremonies still bring tears, cheers and joy. Because all ceremonies take place at the same time, these are the stories of a few of the families who will some day soon live in the 30 new houses under way during this year’s project.

Thank you at Vermont Village

This week, the whine of power tools and the laughter and chatter of JCWP participants have filled the air, but the quiet “thank you” of Vermont Avenue homeowner Manuel Hernandez during his house dedication resounds the loudest.

As the volunteers who had worked with Hernandez and his family on their home joined hands and spoke a few words, Hernandez simply smiled and ducked his head, repeating “thank you” over and over again.

Homeowner Angie Garrido reaches for a hug from a volunteer during the dedication ceremony of her new house, her mother, Vilma Garrido, is pictured at right.

Next door, volunteer Mary Losch of Iowa City, Iowa, was the one saying thank you for a chance to share “this small piece of joy.” She told homeowner Angie Garrido: “We are most appreciative that you’ve allowed us to come into your life. We hope the laughter of these past days echoes through these halls forevermore.”

After her dedication was complete, Garrido walked over to the Gonzalez house to share a moment and a tight hug with fellow Habitat homeowner and neighbor-to-be Alice Gonzalez. Gonzalez wiped away tears of joy as she received the well wishes of her team of volunteers. In return, she presented her house leader with a plaque that read, “Thank you, thank you, Habitat for Humanity for selecting our family to partner with you. Love Always, the Gonzalez Family.”

The volunteers on the Lenard and Ramirez family homes learned that you can accomplish more by working together than by laboring apart. The two teams decided to help each other out rather than only working on their assigned house. “You are the best group of volunteers I’ve ever had,” said house leader Vadim Hsu during the dedication of the two homes. “This is what happens when a team works together.” Hsu pointed out that there are three qualities that make a build successful: “Innovation. Hard work. Spirit.” He noted that he saw those qualities in action this week and offered some advice: “Take a little bit of what you’ve felt this week. Spread it around the other 51 weeks of the year. That’s what this event is all about.”

“It’s been a tight team this week,” said house leader Doug Copley during the dedication of the Contreras-Sosa house. “It’s been a small team at times this week,” he joked. Although the team on House C7 was smaller than usual, their affection and admiration for Samuel Contreras and Elsa Sosa’s hard work was ample. Contreras was presented with a certificate of homeownership from the city of Los Angeles, which volunteer Mario Mijango translated into Spanish for him. After photos, congratulations and a group hug, Copley had some parting words for his team: “Back to work!”

San Pedro: Blessed to be here

Tough men and women who had hauled lumber, installed siding, nailed roof shingles and moved mountains of debris were reduced to tears Friday when it came time to dedicate the houses they had built.

“We’re blessed to be here,” house leader Jeff Coulson of Downey, Calif., told homeowner Deisy Mancia, who had started shedding tears the moment construction stopped and the dedication ceremonies began, even before a translator had put Coulson’s English into Spanish. “The way God works, it takes many to work for all.”

By that time, even the translator was crying.

House leaders Coulson and Tom Gerdy supervised construction of the duplex that will be the new homes of two families: Deisy Mancia and her two children on one side; and Pablo Trujillo, his wife, Salud Becerra, their daughter and an ailing grandmother on the other.

The 60 people who had spent five days working on the homes dropped their hammers and gathered around in a circle while the house leaders led an emotional celebration.

“Every one of us thanks you for allowing us to play a role in doing what God means for us to do while we’re on Earth,” Gerdy told the families. “We are all family. We will be with you here in this home forever. No matter what challenges you face, you will have hundreds of people praying for you and helping you through it.”

Irish built

Irish eyes were smiling (and glistening with tears of joy) during the dedication of the Ruiz and Ruano and Morales families’ homes.

Volunteers from Ireland and Northern Ireland worked all week alongside those from Maine, Delaware, Massachusetts and California.

The group gathered in houses 7A and 7B at the JCWP 2007 in San Pedro for a final ceremony and farewell.

Amid freshly painted walls and only recently silenced power tools, house leaders offered blessings and families offered thanks for the week of hard work.

“I don’t have words to thank you enough,” said Norma Ruiz. “You are all part of my big family now. I will remember you forever.”

Best of intentions

Mar’Lyn Bland sawed a board in half to symbolize a ribbon-cutting. LouJean Fobert, construction manager for Habitat for Humanity Mid-Willamette Valley and one of the house leaders, advised everyone to think of their best intention for coming to build homes for Mar’Lyn, her husband, Aaron Atlas, and the Hector Valdez family, the two families who will live in 8A and 8B. Those intentions, the love, the concern, the giving back, had been built into this house, she said.

Each volunteer was honored with a certificate. Each volunteer signed a board for each of the families. Each volunteer cried.

Atlas whispered to his wife, “It’s happening. It’s happening.”