What you're doing now, people did for me

Victoria knows a lot can happen in 20 years. In that time, she raised four children who have grown into fine adults and now has 11 grandchildren.

Back in 1995, she poured her heart and sweat into building ’s first home — her home, where she would go on to create a better life for her family.

Twenty years later, she paid off the house, gathering with family and Habitat staff members, who watched her set fire to the mortgage. She didn’t need it anymore.

“It just blows my mind it went so fast,” she says.

But as she looks back from her home on the corner, in a nice area across from a park where her children played, she recognizes the hard work it took to get where she is now.

“I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with three teenagers. It was a pretty rough time for us,” she says.

Because she couldn’t see a way to move her family from the small apartment, Victoria would always encourage her children to pray. Then she learned about Habitat from her sister.

“Little by little, it started to become a dream come true,” she says.

Victoria was working up to 60 hours a week at the time. On top of that schedule, she logged hundreds of hours of sweat equity helping to build her home. Weekends, after work — she put the time in where she could and was grateful for those who gave their time to work alongside her.

She remembers well the local families who donated the land and everyone who came out to build alongside her. “People volunteer their time to build houses. That’s giving,” she says.

In the early days, she also remembers having to send her children to their rooms — but not for time-outs. Used to living in cramped quarters, the children would hang out in the living room together. It was just habit.

But the house gave them more than just their own space, she says. It provided stability for her family. It was a place of safety and security. It was a place where her family could grow stronger. And once she had it, she was never letting go.

“No matter what I went through, I told my kids I wasn’t going to lose my house,” she says.

So she worked hard, made the payments and focused on her vision of paying off her home. When she made the final payment, she received a document certifying that her account was paid in full. She has it framed on her coffee table.

Victoria can look back at all she has accomplished, at the cherished memories that fill her home. Her children are now grown and have their own children. They all live nearby, and the home continues to be a place where they can come together.

Victoria’s son, Santana, sees the impact the home has had — and still has — on his family.

“It changed our thought processes,” he says. Past worries about where they were going to live were replaced by the knowledge that they had a stable home. And they had their mother’s promise she wouldn’t lose that home.

“She made that promise, and she kept it,” he says.

He and his siblings watched his mother work hard for their home and strive to get a college degree. That changed the family, he says. Now his children want to do the same.

Victoria recently attended an event where she spoke with newer Habitat homeowners. They shared stories. Victoria was able to give others a look at their future.

“Someday, you’re going to be where I’m at,” she told them.

She also met and thanked donors at the event and encouraged their continued support.

“This is where your money goes, people like me who are taking care of their families,” she told them. “What you’re doing now, people did for me.”

For Victoria, that’s how her dream of a home came to be. Donors gave. Volunteers showed up. They built, side by side with her, working on the home where she knew her family could thrive.

There’s something about the home, Victoria says, that wasn’t in the original plans: the window over the sink.

She told the builders, “I’m always at the sink doing dishes; can you put a window there?”

They could, and they did. Now she looks out that window every day, standing in the Habitat house she owns.