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More than 200 volunteers help build 2 Habitat homes

By Laura Garcia
Aug. 28, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
Updated Aug. 28, 2014 at 10:37 p.m.

Samantha Forrest laughs with her fellow volunteers as she nails down boards from atop a ladder while helping  build a house with the Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity during the Victoria County United Way's Day of Caring. "The gift of service is the ultimate gift," Forrest said of her decision to volunteer  Thursday.

When Tiffany Martinez, 32, of Victoria, drove up to the site of her future home, she said she started to feel overwhelmed.

Dozens of cars and trucks lined the streets in the 55-lot Swan Crossing subdivision and filled two empty fields. More than 205 volunteers registered for Day of Caring, which is the Victoria County United Way's fourth annual campaign kickoff event in collaboration with Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity.

"All these people were here to help," Martinez said.

A single mother of five children, she is one of two recipients of a four-bedroom, two-bath home under construction Thursday. She said she wanted to meet the volunteers helping her achieve the dream of becoming a homeowner.

She and Roxanne Pena, 34, also a single mother of five, have known each other since junior high school and will soon be neighbors.

Both women waited months to qualify for the Habitat for Humanity program, which included repairing their credit ratings and attending financial and homeowner's classes, undergoing home visits and volunteering at ReStore, Habitat's nonprofit building materials shop.

Martinez said her children are excited and already picking out their rooms - even before the foundation was laid.

"We're very blessed to be given the opportunity to own a home, to have a better life and a better future," Pena said.

Both women were on-site thanking volunteers, helping where they could and making sure everyone stayed hydrated.

"Without them, we wouldn't have this," Pena said. "We're both very thankful."

More than 160 volunteers helped build the two homes with another 40 or so volunteers helping at ReStore, 1101 N. William St. Longtime store manager Ruby Ruiz said volunteers got right to work at ReStore and helped build a gazebo among other projects, many of which sold quickly via social media with proceeds going to Habitat.

This is the first time the nonprofit has built two homes in one day.

This year's United Way campaign chairman, Greg Westbrook, who is also a plant manager at DuPont's Victoria plant, said this was the 84th and 85th home built in Victoria, DeWitt and Lavaca counties.

Volunteers, many on loan from local businesses, installed walls, trellises and roofs; wrapped the houses; painted baseboards and doors and worked on other projects to help complete construction of the homes. Both families should be in their homes for the holidays.

United Way also announced its campaign goal of $945,000.

"We're going to match what we raised last year," said Clifford Grimes, executive director of Victoria County United Way.

He said the nonprofit is well on its way with $201,285 in donations, exceeding its goal of raising 10 percent before the official kickoff of the 2014 campaign.

United Way partners with 15 other agencies in the Crossroads area.

Habitat Executive Director Cynthia Staley said Thursday's effort was a record turnout.

In 2010, Victoria City Council voted to partner with Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity to help fill eight lots with cottage-style homes. The Martinez and Pena families will own Habitat's ninth and 10th homes in the Swan Crossing subdivision.



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