Deborah has fond memories of her childhood. Her mom was a natural host, and her home was always filled with people. Friends, family, neighbors—anyone and everyone was welcome at Deborah’s mom’s place.
“She was like a counselor to our friends,” Deborah remembers. “All of our friends would come over to my mom’s house and stay the night.” It was the place to be.
“I’m glad she rubbed off on me!” she adds, laughing, because Deborah’s just the same way—always having people over.
Now, Deborah’s Habitat home is the place to be.
In the mid-90s, Deborah was raising her family in a town home in Minneapolis. It was Deborah with her three kids, and Jerry with his two kids. She fit in well with all her neighbors, and despite not having a ton of room she still had folks over all the time. Her place was the place to be.
“But everybody wants to own a home once in a lifetime,” Deborah says. She would think about buying a house, but couldn’t find something she could afford.
When Deborah saw Habitat for Humanity mentioned in a newsletter, it was enough to catch her attention. She figured she might as well look into it.
She applied and was accepted. The entire process took her two years. It wasn’t too long, but it definitely took work. She was careful to maintain and improve her finances. She worked alongside volunteers to rehab the home she had selected—a home built in 1910 that had caught her eye because of the beautiful woodwork.
Together with volunteers, Deborah hung sheetrock, she painted, she tore out and replaced the kitchen, and much more. When it was finished, some neighbor kids who had lived in the house earlier stopped by. They couldn’t believe this was the same house they had recently lived in.
Deborah’s kids were excited—for their own rooms, for two bathrooms, and for a backyard.
And Deborah was excited too. She took pride in her home, and still regularly updates her décor. Over the 20 years she’s owned the home, Deborah’s updated the doors, windows, furniture, appliances. She’s painted, done landscaping, had a new fence put up, and the roof redone. She’s keeping the home in a good condition so she can pass it down to the next generation.
Her kids grew up in that home, and when they had kids of their own they lived with Deborah, too.
“Now, everybody is gone and it’s just me and Jerry living here,” Deborah says. But she’s quick to add: “they always come back—they always want to visit.”
“It’s a wanted house,” she says. “Everybody that comes here feels loved and wanted and appreciated.”
Now, two of Deborah’s children live with their families in North Carolina, where Deborah’s mom also lives. One of Deborah’s daughters lives in Minneapolis, and she comes over with the grandkids all the time. Deborah keeps half of her porch for relaxation, and the other half for grandkid fun. And her extra rooms are decorated and ready for whenever her grandkids stay over, which is often.
“I’m just like my mom,” Deborah says. “That’s just how I am. My grandkids will have their friends over here. It’s like an open house—open arms.”
A few years ago, Deborah was diagnosed with cancer. Jerry also became unable to work. But through her trials and tribulations, she was able to keep up with her mortgage and bills. In fact, she was able to pay off her mortgage a year early and do some more upgrades to the house. Now she’s a two-year cancer survivor, and loving life. As she’s seen friends fall into foreclosure or other housing difficulties over the years, she’s grateful for the strong foundation of her Habitat home.
“I was blessed with this house through Habitat, so I want to be a blessing to anybody else who needs a place to stay, or a place to eat. My house is always open. I’m proud to be able to do that, because nothing is promised in life. That’s just me—the way I was brought up. I love life!”
In October, Deborah will visit her mom in North Carolina for her 75th birthday. Then her mom plans to come stay with her for a couple months.
“She asked how long can she stay, and I said you can stay as long as you want to!”
Deborah grew up with her mom hosting anyone and everyone at their home. Now, Deborah can host her mom in her own home—giving back to the woman who taught her so much.
“People that spend their time and effort volunteering for Habitat: they are awesome, they do a great job,” Deborah says. “I like what they do. I appreciate that they’re giving their time.”
And for people thinking about applying for Habitat’s homeownership program, Deborah’s got some advice: “Go through it, have an open mind, and be positive about it. Think about how blessed you will be once you become a homeowner through Habitat. It definitely was a blessing for me.”