Welcome home, Candi.

“It’s been a long journey, but it’s one that I’ve appreciated and one that I’ve loved.”

The sounds of laughter and excited shouts echoed throughout Candi’s recently finished house as her three children explored their new home for the very first time. The kids raced from room to room, exclaiming in amazement about the bedrooms that will soon be theirs and all of the hiding spots for future games of hide-and-seek.

Candi waited to show her family the completed home until its dedication on Sunday, which was a very special and emotional moment for her and each of her children. They have worked toward this home for the past three years.

“It’s been a long journey, but it’s one that I’ve appreciated and one that I’ve loved,” Candi said. “And I’m looking forward to getting moved in.”

Candi and her three children

Habitat for Humanity Home Dedications are meant to thank volunteers involved with the construction of the home, show the significance of completing the homeownership process, and most importantly, congratulate new homeowners and officially hand them the keys to the house they have worked so hard for.

“This house is her accomplishment,” Caitlyn Baylor, RAHFH Homeowner Services Coordinator, said. “It’s the result of her incredible perseverance, and her incredible hard work to make sure that she could get her family a perfect, permanent home.”

During the dedication, RAHFH Executive Director Keri Asevedo also commended Candi for her determination over the years.

“Her patience, her persistence, and her hard work culminate in this day, where we’re able to dedicate this home to her and her family, offer our blessings and support, and let her start this amazing chapter of her life,” Asevedo said. “I am so unbelievably excited for you, to have this space, to have this neighborhood, and to be a part of the Habitat family… Welcome home.”

Candi said that though the road to homeownership was difficult at times, she is thankful for the opportunities she had to work toward her financial goals and to contribute to the construction of her home.

“I loved that part. I actually learned a lot of things,” Candi said. “I got to actually be hands-on in helping build it from the beginning.”

Many of those hands-on learning experiences happened alongside Guilford High School students, who built the majority of Candi’s house under the leadership of their construction teacher, Mark Anderson.

This is the fourth Habitat house that Guilford students have built from the ground up. Because of circumstances with COVID-19, when schools were closed Habitat hired contractors to finish Candi’s house, but the students were invested to the very end—three Guilford graduates who worked on the house attended the home dedication, and another sent a message that she requested to be read by Asevedo at the event.

Guilford students from left to right: Damien, Jonny, Andrew

“I hope that the partnership between Rockford’s Habitat for Humanity and Guilford High School lasts a long time,” the student wrote. “The opportunity that is given to the students, and the experience they gain, is something that benefits us after graduation.”

Because of the invaluable learning experience that Habitat provides for students and the success of the Guilford program, Habitat and East High School are also beginning a partnership.

“This is the first school year that we’ll be working with students at East as well, to ensure that we can serve yet another family in Rockford who needs safe, affordable housing,” Asevedo said.

The impacts on the lives of the students who build these homes, as well as the families that purchase them, last for a lifetime.

As Candi looks toward the future, she’s excited to work with her family to decorate their home and truly make it their own. She also said that she’s looking forward to continuing to keep up with all of the responsibilities that come with homeownership.

“I mean, it’s going to be a struggle, but at the same time, it’s nothing that I can’t face,” she said. “You have your ups and your downs, but I’m looking forward to setting better goals for ourselves, and for my whole family.”