Homeowner Kathy stands in the beginnings of her house.

Reflecting on 25 years of homeownership, friendship

By Habitat homeowner Kathy

As I turned the calendar page to close out 2020, I was reminded of how quickly time goes by. It has been 25 years now since my two daughters and I moved into our newly built Habitat home in Boise, Idaho. As I looked at the calendar, recalling our life all those years ago and reflecting on all that has happened since, memories flooded my mind.

Back then, before Habitat, I figured that homeownership would always be out of reach. In the early 1990s, my girls, Theresa and Maria, and I were living in a duplex that kept increasing in cost. We dreamed of a simple, affordable space of our own — but with the cost of rent rising right under our feet, I wasn’t sure how or if that would ever be possible.

A few months later, after picking up a brochure at church, I attended a Boise Valley Habitat home dedication ceremony held not far from our apartment. While there, I not only learned about Boise Valley Habitat’s mission, I saw it in action as a family received the keys to their home. After the ceremony, I met some of the Habitat volunteers and staff. They explained the Habitat application process and answered my questions. I left the event with a renewed sense of hope.

A year later, after an application and interview process, some of those same Boise Valley Habitat volunteers and staff members gathered at a new construction site. I met them there in the rainy February of 1995, and together we began working on my own family’s forever home.

A white Habitat home with a white fence.

At the time, my daughters and I didn’t know the first thing about building. Now, we look back at that time and laugh. One day, a volunteer told us how to put in the flooring, so we started pounding nails in. When he came back to check on us, he was speechless. “OK, yep,” he laughed, “that’s certainly a lot of nails!” We had been hammering in one nail about every inch when far fewer would have sufficed. (Safe to say our floor is still in place today.)

My daughters and I learned how to do many things like this — even if it wasn’t the easy way. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Being able to put our house together and learn how it works, how to take care of it, piece by piece, helped us understand what goes into building a house and how to take care of it once it finally became ours. At our home dedication ceremony, I said that this was “the most beautiful home in Boise.” I meant it.

That’s because, while the process of constructing our own home was special, the thing that made it beautiful was the willingness of people, some even strangers, to show up and build right alongside us.

My kids and I put in a combined 250 hours of sweat equity to qualify for our Habitat home. Family and friends were expected to put in another 250 hours. At first, I wasn’t sure how I would meet that criteria since all my family lived back in Iowa. But every Saturday at the worksite, new faces would appear, eager to spend their weekend helping my family build our dream house. Volunteers from area churches and Habitat board members came to help us build.

One day, even my coworkers surprised me by showing up to work on their day off. Neighbors brought coffee to volunteers one week and cookies the next. I was constantly overwhelmed by the goodness of people and the kindness of strangers. Over time, those strangers would form my community and my family here in Idaho.

These people and the bonds we formed are the true meaning of Habitat’s work for me. The power of Habitat’s ministry is in its people. The people who help you back up, the ones who will go out of their way for a stranger. Their selfless example made me look at life differently. It made me a more giving person. Because when someone has helped you, you just can’t help but want to help other people.

Now 25 years later, I’m retired, and my mortgage is paid off. My daughters are grown and on their own. My house is sturdy and on a single story so that I can grow older here in safety, comfort and peace.

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Kathy’s daughters Theresa and Maria in their Habitat home’s kitchen in 1995.

Kathy’s daughters Theresa and Maria in their Habitat home’s kitchen in 2019.

Kathy’s daughters Theresa and Maria in their Habitat home’s kitchen in 1995.

Kathy’s daughters Theresa and Maria in their Habitat home’s kitchen in 2019.

I continue to give time and my voice to Boise Valley Habitat whenever I can and always encourage people to apply to the homeownership program so that, like me, they can be blessed by all that home and Habitat provide. Over the years, I’ve helped many other families build their own homes here in Boise. It’s so special to watch their own journey unfold and to do my part to help them, knowing just what it means to have strangers show up in your corner.

My close-knit Habitat family has gotten smaller with time as we age or move away, yet we continue to gather every year around Christmas to celebrate all the good in our lives — including each other. I’ve hosted this celebration in my home every year since construction was completed. It’s a special chance for us to catch up, to laugh together and to reminisce over who put in that window or who nailed in that baseboard.

Although we had to skip the in-person celebration this year due to the pandemic, the sounds and sights of the holiday season constantly remind me of these special people and their friendships, ones that have sustained me all my life. Once it is safe to do so, we plan to pick up our tradition of celebration and thankfulness right where it left off. But until then, I’ll cozy up, stay safe and count my blessings here in “the most beautiful home in Boise” — the one that we built together.

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