Kathy and David will never forget their first night in their Habitat home. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and they had closed on the home earlier that day. Leaving their two young boys with David’s parents, they grabbed their sleeping bags and some food for dinner and went to their new home—just the two of them.
“It was so surreal,” says Kathy. “Everything we did – turning on a light, eating dinner on the floor, doing dishes in the sink – reminded me that this was actually my home.”
They listened to Flo Rida’s “My House” on repeat, not worried for the first time about if it was too loud or if David’s parents would want it on. It got late, and they laid their sleeping bags out on the hard floor of their empty home. They fell asleep dreaming about the future they would build together here. And they could hardly believe that, not even a year before, they hadn’t even considered partnering with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.
They had been living with David’s parents in a duplex in Minneapolis. It was nice to have built-in babysitters for their son Kendrick, but they didn’t feel like it was the best place to raise their family. When Kendrick was a baby, their neighbors were busted for selling drugs out of their home. There wasn’t really a yard, and not much space for kids to run around and be loud. Plus, Kathy and David longed to decorate and furnish their own space. They needed a home of their own.
“We thought that Habitat for Humanity was for other families, not us,” Kathy says. “We just figured we’d keep saving and working hard and eventually we’d be able to get our own place. But after a few years of trying, it just wasn’t happening.”
They’re not alone. With rents skyrocketing and wages staying flat, working families across the Twin Cities are struggling to afford safe, stable places to live. It’s difficult to get ahead. When Kathy became pregnant with their second son, Devin, they realized their family was growing but they weren’t any closer to owning their own place.
“We got to a point where we decided we might as well try something,” Kathy says. They went to a Habitat orientation, and to their surprise they were in the income range and accepted. Soon they were rushing to complete their requirements, including sweat equity hours.
Kathy had already worked on a few build sites when she stepped foot on what would be their home in Chaska for the first time. A church group was there, and she jumped right in among them, ready to get down to work. As she picked up her hammer and swung, a Pastor came over.
“Excuse me, but is that the first nail you’re pounding into your house?” he said.
“Oh my gosh, it is!” Kathy replied, fully taking in the moment for the first time.
“Would you like me to get a picture of this?”
Kathy posed with the hammer mid-swing, the Pastor snapped the picture on her phone, and they were back to work. But the moment stays with her, a signpost amidst the whirlwind of preparing to own their own home.
A similar moment sticks out for David. He was working on his house and another volunteer gave him his house number so he could nail it up himself.
“That was a very proud and memorable moment for me,” David says. “It felt like I was officially making our mark, that this was our house.”
“I also loved meeting all the volunteers at our house and other Habitat houses,” David says. “I’ve never seen such genuine caring people who put so much hard work in building a home for others. There is a lot of good in this world and I’m glad I got to experience a bit of that while volunteering with others.”
Kathy and David have been in their home for well over a year now. After a busy few months of preparation and moving, they’re focused on enjoying each and every moment together.
“I just simply love the feeling of having a house to finally call my own,” David says, and Kathy agrees. “It’s that feeling of me as a man having my own castle. It’s finally mine. I’ll care for it, protect it, create memories in it, and most importantly I’ll raise my family in it. Being a first-time homeowner is a huge step in anyone’s life, and I’m grateful to have achieved it with Habitat for Humanity.”
Kathy is crafty, and her favorite part has been picking out and creating the furnishings and decorations—something she wasn’t able to do when they lived with parents. And they’re getting to know their new neighborhood.
“At first, we were wondering how our kids would get along with other kids in the neighborhood,” Kathy says. There’s lots families with young children near them, but Kendrick and Devin weren’t used to that in their old home.
“We thought we might have to be the ones to introduce ourselves to new neighbors and our kids might be shy. But Kendrick has made friends in the neighborhood, and now he’s the one introducing us to our neighbors!”
Kendrick will be starting first grade in the fall, and his school is about a block away from their home. They look forward to walking to and from school each day—as a family, and as a neighborhood.
David, a Marine Veteran, was in school when they were buying the home and has since completed his degree—he now works for a company that installs HVAC systems. He’s grateful for the freedom to simply relax with his family after a grueling day on the job. Kathy works for C. H. Robinson, and loves the work environment and the fact that they provide volunteer opportunities. Her Habitat experience has opened her eyes to the power of volunteering, so she’s pushing herself to volunteer more now.
Back at home, they’re starting to create new traditions. Their first Christmas was shortly after they moved in. A coworker found out that they didn’t have a Christmas tree, so she gave them a small one. But for their second Christmas, they got their own big tree.
“My sons helped me decorate our Christmas tree,” Kathy says. “It was so nice, and it’s something I want to continue doing every year.”
Their youngest, three-year-old Devin, is starting to talk a lot more now. He’s also starting to fully grasp that his family has their own home. When they’re driving home and they turn the corner on their block and see their house, they’ll often hear him from the back seat: “Daddy’s house!” or “Mommy’s house!”
And sometimes, Devin smiles and points and shouts: “My house!”