Meet a Habitat Family
From a tiny one bedroom apartment to a spacious three bedroom home, this family's life has changed drastically in the past year!
Carlos moved to the United States on his own 20 years ago, when he was just 16 years old. When he met Maria on a visit to his hometown in Mexico, "I fell in love with the pretty lady," he says smiling at his wife.
Their children, Carla Maria (4 years) and Junior (2 years), have nothing but love for their parents. When Carlos, returns from work at 8:00AM after working the night shift, the two little ones dash across their new living room, shrieking and giggling, and jump into their father's arms. They exchange kisses before dad sends them off to play. They continue to sneak back to the living room to be near their parents.
A family friend first told the Jimenez's about Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County in 2014. At first, Carlos set the paperwork aside, thinking that he would never be chosen. When the friend continued to ask, he completed the application, if only to stop her nagging. He was shocked when they found out they had been selected as the next Habitat family.
"I never even had a dream about where we are now. It's just amazing," Carlos says.
The family loves their new home. The kids play in the basement and the whole family enjoys painting together at the living room table. The backyard is a favorite gathering place for the family. The kids have room to run around, and everyone enjoys siting by a little portable fire pit. Maria is looking forward to planting tomatoes and peppers in her garden in the spring and has already put plants and flowers in the front yard.
Carlos appreciates that his new home blocks sounds from the neighbors. In the apartment, the parents had to constantly remind the children to keep their voices down. An older neighbor downstairs would bang on the ceiling with a broom handle anytime the kids made noise. Now, they can laugh and play as much as they want. And the house is quiet from outside noise as well.
"For a house built in 1908, it has great structure," he says, looking around at the new walls, flooring, doors and windows.
The house wasn't always so great. When Habitat first acquired the donated house, it was an eyesore in the neighborhood. Chipped paint, cracked shingles, and a constant smell from numerous animals that had been kept in the basement were enough to turn someone away.
When he first saw the house, "I was a little scared. It looked pretty bad," Carlos says laughing.
With the help of Habitat volunteers, the roof was removed and a second story added. Support beams were put in place in the basement. The dirt floor had been covered with a thin layer of poorly applied concrete that needed to be replaced. Maria remembers carrying bucket after bucket of broken concrete up from the basement.
Like all Habitat families, Carlos and Maria each put 250 hours of "sweat equity" into working on their new home. Maria had two young children to care for while building, and Carlos juggled two full time jobs at the time, but they were both dedicated to making time to work on their home. "It was hard work," they admit but they both enjoyed it. "You learn so much and it was neat to see how the house goes together," Carlos says.
Carlos and Maria are grateful to Habitat and all the supporters who made it possible to get their own home.
"I think it's so good when people come together. It makes a difference to do great things to benefit the whole family," Carlos says. "Everybody worked so hard, everybody is so nice. Our lives totally changed. It's just great, what happened to us."