Habitat Partner Families See Dreams Realized -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Habitat Partner Families See Dreams Realized

Homeowner Edgar Ruano and Money Gram International employee Jacque Williams from Lakewood, Colorado.


This week, the buzz and bustle of the Jimmy Carter Work Project 2007 work sites have been rousing reminders of the brighter tomorrows awaiting the partner families at the center of the weeklong build. As they worked alongside their newfound friends, several JCWP homeowners took the time to share their thoughts on their Habitat experiences.

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Sweat equity has been on Barbara Wallace’s mind and to-do list all summer. “I’m doing all I can. It’s only me,” the single mom explained.

She has worked Saturdays, Sundays, took a week of vacation to build earlier, and she’s on vacation this week and working hard at the San Pedro site every day.

Painting with a roller, Wallace wore a soft smile and a dollop of paint on her cheek. This week, she’s working with volunteers from Dow Chemical, the sponsor of her house, who she says are just very nice people.

A wistful look crosses her face when she asked what she’ll do when she finally gets to move in. She says she’s going to relax, unwind and enjoy her house.

Does she think owning a Habitat for Humanity house will change her life?

“It already has, “she said. “To see all these whole-hearted people working. It makes you feel good.

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“It’s been a wonderful experience for me,” said Norma Ruiz of her week working alongside volunteers on the JCWP build site. “I feel so special.”

Ruiz, her husband and four children will soon occupy a house of their own. Ruiz has been keeping her children updated on the progress by taking photos of the house each day. “They’re all excited and can’t wait to move, but the 5-year-old is the most excited. He says he’s going to be at the beach every day,” said Ruiz, referring to the Port of Los Angeles, which is within walking distance of their new San Pedro home.

In addition to providing a healthy environment for her family, Ruiz has been learning homeownership skills through her work with Habitat. “I didn’t know how to paint, but now I’ll be ready when we move in,” she said. “Today, I’m learning about cabinets. Now if a door falls off, I can fix it.”

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Edgar Ruano has already started packing. He and his family aren’t scheduled to move into their Habitat home until the end of the year, but he wants to be ready. “I can’t wait to give my landlord 30 days’ notice,” he said with a smile. With 470 sweat-equity hours already under his belt, before the end of this week, he will have completed the 500 hours required of partner families building with Greater Los Angeles Habitat for Humanity.

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Future Habitat homeowner Alice Gonzalez arrived at the build site on the first day of the Jimmy Carter Work Project in a wheelchair, recovering from surgery. She was injured when the shower door in her current home fell on her foot. The energy on the Vermont build site helped to renew her strength, she said. “I’m ready to jump up and run right now.”

By Wednesday, Gonzalez was carefully and expertly maneuvering the site carefully on crutches. She grabbed a chair and set up a system that allowed her to help measure and cut siding panels, which were then ferried to President Carter, who also was working on her house.

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Mar’Lyn Bland and Aaron Atlas are saving the surprise. None of their six children have been to the construction site. They only know Daddy and Mommy are going off to build all the time so both grandmothers are babysitting for them often.

“We’re waiting for the big surprise,” Mar’Lyn said. “I just want to see the way their faces look.”

A smile crosses her face as she imagines what it will be like to see the house completed and ready to move into to, to see the children see their first home for the first time.

Sulal, their oldest, had such fun at the Habitat Festival Sunday. “She had an apron on. She was working. She said ‘I’m building just like daddy.’” Aaron laughed.

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Guadalupe Ramirez has a thing or two to say to the volunteers working on his family’s home: “First of all, I’d like to say that we are very happy they are making our dream a reality -- very thankful to God and everyone here.” This week volunteers have come from as far away as Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts to work on the Ramirez family’s home. “It’s beautiful,” said Ramirez. “I can’t believe there are so many volunteers here.

“Lastly, I’d just like to say, ‘Thank you.’ We couldn’t realize this dream any other way.”

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Manuel Hernandez is looking forward to moving his family into his new house on Vermont Avenue. But, first, he spent the week looking for siding supplies and a learning experience. “The most exciting thing about this week,” he said, “is that you can learn skills, abilities, ways to do things. This is the best time to learn the little things to help you survive once you are the owner. I have seen this house from zero to 10; that gives me the big picture.”

In addition to learning about siding and wiring and plumbing along the way, Hernandez said he has picked up something else from his Habitat experience. “I’m learning something from the volunteers,” he said. “They don’t care who you are. They don’t care where you are from. We are the same level. We are the same workers.”

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Carmen Ramirez doesn’t want the experience of working with others to improve her community to end after this week’s Jimmy Carter Work Project. A trained childcare worker, she already has plans to provide daycare for the families of Vermont Village. She and her husband, Jaime, also intend to continue to spread the word out about Habitat’s work. “We’d like to see more people get involved with Habitat,” she said.

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Salud Becerra says that working alongside volunteers from across the United States and as far away as Europe makes her proud.


Salud Becerra says that working alongside volunteers from across the United States and as far away as Europe makes her proud. “They came from very far away so I know that helping us is important to them,” she said. The family of three currently shares a small one-room house. Becerra’s daughter, who loves to read, is looking forward to having her own room where she can put her books. The experience has been overwhelming for Becerra. “I can’t express how I feel,” she said. Becerra plans to keep working with Habitat after this week’s build is over. “It’s been such a great experience.”

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Working with Habitat for Humanity has given Samuel Contreras a new perspective on what it takes to build a house. Originally from El Salvador, Contreras says that he has enjoyed working alongside volunteers from both the United States and Canada. Contreras already knows his neighbors, and he and his wife Elsa look forward to making their house a home and their neighborhood a community just as soon as they have the go-ahead to move in. “We’ll be ready when they tell us,” he said.

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William Mancia is looking forward to having a place to display his coin collection. He plans to frame his collection and hang it on the wall in his new room. His little brother Alex will finally have a place to display his toy cars. Deisy Mancia is just thankful to have a safe home for her family. “I think I’m going to cry during the dedication,” she said. “It’s going to be an exciting day. We’ve been waiting for this a long time.” Mancia wants to share her blessings with others. “My children and I have decided that we want to help other families get their own house.”

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Cassandra Torres’ dream of owning a home for her family hit a slight bump in the road early this week. The bump was literal: A driver who was text-messaging while navigating one of L.A.’s infamous freeways rear-ended Torres’ car while going about 35 mph. Torres refused medical attention, insisting that she was fine and needed to get to the construction site of her soon-to-be home.

“I’m not going to leave the fun for everybody else,” said Torres, laughing. “I needed to be here working.”

Torres has almost completed the 500 hours of sweat equity required of JCWP partner families, but she’s not slowing down. “I want to keep going,” she said. “It’s fun.”

Children aren’t allowed on the worksite, but Torres said she brings them by regularly to view the progress from the outside on their four-bedroom duplex. “They are so excited. We’re all counting the days until we move in.”

Her boss at the Women and Children’s Crisis Center in Whittier has been tremendously supportive through the construction process, Torres said, allowing her to work 10-hour shifts four days a week so she has long weekends to hammer and paint and do whatever else needs to be done. Her home has the distinction of being built by an all-woman construction crew – with occasional men, a.k.a “honorary women for a day,” pitching in as needed.

“I’m excited about the all-woman crew,” Torres said as she painted the front room of her house. “I think women are more perfectionists. They want to get everything just right.”

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On the first day of the 2007 Jimmy Carter Work Project, Efrain and Lucia Funes can’t contain their excitement. “We feel so happy that they’re helping us,” said Efrain of the volunteers from around the world who gathered to help build houses, including theirs, on Vermont Avenue. “We appreciate their hard work. We’re excited to see the love people give us and the time they spend here to help us,” he continued.

This week, their house has been known as “C-3,” but soon it will be the Funes family home. “We cannot explain what we feel in our heart,” said Efrain. No explanation necessary -- their faces say it all.