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The ripple effect of change (part 2) -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The ripple effect of change (part 2)

An opportunity to help


Seventeen years later, Tobar cherishes photos from the 1995 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. He credits his family’s house with changing the course of his life and inspiring him to help other people. ©Jason Asteros/Habitat for Humanity International


Throughout his life, Tobar has kept in touch with the staff at Habitat for Humanity Greater Los Angeles.

“I don’t know what I would do without Habitat,” he says. “Habitat reminds me of where I come from and where I want to get to.”

Now and then, someone at the affiliate will ask him to speak to groups about what Habitat has meant in his life.

On these occasions, he talks about how having a home boosted the self-esteem of all the Tobar siblings.

He talks about the pride that homeownership instilled in his parents, and about the security it will give them as they age.

“Mom and Dad, they don’t have to worry about a place to live,” he says. “They won’t be working at 70 to afford the rent on a one-bedroom apartment.”

After one of these speeches, the owners of Thomas Safran & Associates approached him. The company specializes in affordable rental housing, with more than 3,500 units in and around Los Angeles. They asked Tobar to come work for them as a property manager.

He agreed.

“I left 12 years of a career, 12 years of banking,” he says. “I had a pretty secure job. But sometimes you’ve got to look for the right opportunity and follow what really makes you happy.”

Changing the world

Tobar sees his new job, which he’s held for just over a year, as an opportunity to help families like his own.

“It’s my passion to work and make differences in someone’s life,” he says. “I’m not rich. I don’t have a huge bank account. But I do want to make a difference, because I saw that difference in my own family.”

There was something about spending time watching other people help build his home, he says, something about their joy and generosity that seeped into his blood.

And always, in the back of his head, he hears something else President Carter said to him.

“He said, ‘People are so worried about trying to change the world, when all they need to do is change one person’s life,’ ” Tobar recalls. “If you change that person’s life, that person is going to change the other person’s life. The other person is going to change another person’s life.

“All of a sudden you’re changing the world.”

Tobar has dedicated himself to proving the president’s words true.

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