When Elaine began her family’s application for Habitat’s Homeownership Program, she saw in that form “a spark of hope.” She had been living in an apartment with her husband, Steve, and their five children, strained by high rent and high crime.
“I’m thrilled to say that my husband and I have been Habitat for Humanity homeowners for the last 11 and a half years down in Morgan Hill, and I can’t believe it,” Elaine said at our 2022 Women’s Leadership Build.
“When Habitat chose us," said Elaine, "they not only saw us, but they gave us the opportunity to commit to our community and to step into that spark of hope, and they changed our lives forever.”
That spark of hope has brought Elaine back to the construction site year after year, her own home long complete, because she wants to kindle that same spark for more families. It brought her to Esperanza Place – a neighborhood named for hope – to do just that. And it brought her to a Women’s Leadership Build because she still remembers a similar build at her own neighborhood a dozen years ago, “an exciting and energy-filled day to have a whole group of women come out and show the men how it’s done!”
That sense of energy and empowerment suffused the three-day build event, where dozens of women and allies gathered each day to frame and raise walls and prepare a foundation for yet more walls to rise upon. Even temperatures in the 90s couldn’t deter a community determined to build. A Thursday morning began with a flat foundation, and less than three days later, a Saturday afternoon ended with first floor framing on six townhomes complete, wall sheathing and subfloor installed.
Elaine and her youngest daughter, Beth, built alongside other Habitat homeowners and future homeowners – Beth experiencing her first Habitat build, as she was just a toddler when her home was under construction. Volunteers from throughout the community pitched in enthusiastically as well, including a group from Platinum Sponsor, ICE Mortgage Technology.
Stephanie Durflinger, ICE Mortgage Technology’s Senior Vice President of Product Strategy, kicked off the event’s first day eager to get hands-on. “We don’t use hammers and nails,” she said of her usual workplace. “But there, we use keyboards and clouds to try to build a better industry to keep people in homes, to help people attain homes, and that’s what our whole culture has been all about. We very much enjoy giving back in this way as well. So, it’s really fun to be able to do the technology side of it, but then to come here and work with this wonderful group of people, and to have something very real that 42 families will be able to call home? Hey, that’s 42 homes! Forty-two places to live! How fantastic is that?”
Erika Vandenbrande, Director of Community Development for the City of Walnut Creek, agreed with the sentiment. “I can’t tell you how delighted I am to be here,” she said, “and how humbling it is to be here, to see all of you here to help create community. In government, we tend to be very dry, with facts and talk about partnerships and so forth. But truly, looking here in this place and space, I am amazed by the love, the caring, and just simply how much you’re willing to volunteer – to help housing affordability in the area and in Walnut Creek specifically.”
We even got a helping hammer from statewide champion of affordable homeownership, Assemblymember Timothy Grayson, who has been advocating for funding at the state level that could produce more affordable ownership housing through CalHome, and lower barriers to entry through down payment assistance. Assemblymember Grayson lauded the volunteers as “heroes,” and thanked them “for not just the passion, but for the conviction that you have to make it possible for people who once had a dream, but that dream turned into nothing but a fantasy here in California – of ever being able to own a home and cross that line that was impenetrable for so long and start developing generational wealth. It is through Habitat for Humanity – through their advocacy, through their action, through their mobilization of volunteers just like you – that have turned that trajectory around and taken it back to a dream that people can look forward to.”
That power of volunteerism was the driving force of the Women’s Leadership Build. And few know that feeling as well as Megan, who has shared her own Habitat home in Martinez with her wife, Sara, and their three children for the last six years. “I don't have enough words to describe how rewarding it feels to watch your house come from the ground up,” Megan said. “The community that gathers around you is one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever been a part of… They want to spend eight hours building next to you, even doing things that aren't fun, like sweeping debris on a hill in the rain, or digging gigantic holes for fence posts in the 100 degree heat. The most amazing part of all of that is that they come back again and again until the job is done. So, thank you for that.”
Like Elaine, passing along that spark of hope is what keeps Megan coming back as well. “For the future homeowners here, I wish them the thrill of walking through their door for the first time. The peace of stability, the joy of their community, and the incredible empowerment that comes from building their own home… As a woman who grew up in a family of strong and independent women, I know the community that can be built in this kind of space.”
And community, as always, makes it all happen at Habitat. Together, this community has raised $125,000 so far through the Women’s Leadership Build. That’s 83% of the way to our $150,000 goal! If you'd like to help us go the rest of the way, you can do so with double the impact today - by taking advantage of a $10,000 match offer from a generous donor!