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Habitat homeowner takes a star turn

Toshia Williams and her children (from left: Theresa, Johnny and Tracy) moved into one of the first Habitat houses
built in Los Angeles, in 1994. The family is featured in an upcoming episode
of the cable TV show “Home Made Simple.”
(Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles)

By Phil Kloer

Toshia Williams moved into her three-bedroom Habitat for Humanity home in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles almost 20 years ago. But her blessings did not end there.

By paying extra on her mortgage, she was able to pay it off early. In 2012, Williams became Habitat of Greater Los Angeles’ first homeowner to pay off her mortgage. In September 2013, she was selected to appear on the TV show “Home Made Simple” and receive a free home redecoration, overseen by host Soleil Moon Frye, best known as the star of “Punky Brewster.”

The episode airs Saturday, Dec. 14, at 9 a.m. EST on the Oprah Winfrey Network. “Home Made Simple” shows viewers easy, low-cost ways to make home décor improvements.

“Oh, it was so exciting! I was so totally blessed,” Williams said of the TV show’s takeover of her home. “I love everything they did.”

With a TV crew taping everything, host Frye and her team of designers banished Williams and her 16-year-old daughter, Tracy, temporarily from the house — in order to get the dramatic surprise “reveal” at the end — and stripped the living room, dining room and kitchen.

Whirlpool, a longtime partner of Habitat for Humanity, donated a new stove, refrigerator and dishwasher, and the designers shopped at the Los Angeles Habitat ReStore for supplies to spruce up the living areas.

Williams was born and raised in Compton. A single parent at age 20, she depended on Aid to Families with Dependent Children and subsidized rental apartments to make ends meet, along with her full-time job as a clerk at the Sativa-Los Angeles County Water District. When she was building her home alongside Habitat volunteers in 1994, about 20 family members, including her grandmother, helped in the construction.

“Once I became a homeowner, I felt more secure,” she said. “I had more confidence in myself. It gave me something to hold my head up about.”

Williams and her daughter Tracy share the home now. Older children Theresa, 27, and Johnny, 25, both live on their own and work for FedEx. Over the years, Williams has received several promotions and now is office administrator at the water district.

“We are rooted here now,” she said. “We have something that no one can take away from us. I know my kids look up to me as a single parent and know this dream of homeownership is achievable.”

Learn more about this episode of “Home Made Simple” and watch the trailer.