Most parents surprise their kids with gifts, but Heather Heflin surprised her 10-year-old daughter Monique with a house.

Taking advantage of the fact that Monique spent weekends at her dad’s, Heflin quietly went about building their home with Tulsa Habitat for Humanity. When the day finally came for the dedication ceremony and big reveal, Heflin and her mother told Monique that they were going to an open house for Grandma’s friend, that Heather was going early to help set up, and that Monique would come with her grandmother later. “She came in, and Mr. Paul [Kent, executive director] with Habitat started talking,” Heflin recalls. “I was grinning ear to ear, and Mr. Paul turns to her and says, ‘Monique, guess what? This is your brand new home!’ and her head whipped around so fast to look at me. She buried her head into me and started crying. I felt like I couldn’t stop smiling.”

This gift for her daughter is something great for Heflin, too. “I have to admit, a weight has been lifted off my shoulders; I can breathe now,” she says. “It’s still sometimes kind of hard to believe that this is ours. I never thought that I would be a homeowner. “Going from what I was paying in rent to what I’m going to be paying on my mortgage is a significant drop,” she adds.

What will that difference make possible? “We will have the means to do things together outside of just me going to work and her going to school. I will also be able to save for her, for her future. I will be able to establish a true emergency fund — I’ve never in my life had an emergency fund — so it’s going to be a good thing in more than one way.

“It is going to allow me and my daughter to not just survive, but to live.”