Like so many of our homeowners’ stories, this story starts with the dream of owning a home. Unlike most of our stories, that is also how it ends.
Betty says owning her own home was something she always dreamed of, but in 2008, she was renting what she calls “a cramped little apartment” with her five-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. As fate would have it, she was also working at a local television station, where Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity’s Executive Director arranged a television spot to advertise the upcoming application opportunity for Habitat’s homeownership program.
Betty decided to apply for the program she learned about at work that day. She remembers being told that she would get a call if she was accepted into the program, and she remembers how anxiously she awaited a phone call telling her yes. “When we got that call,” Betty recalls, “my children and I just celebrated and rejoiced right in our little living room.”
Betty completed the partnership requirements of the program – going through homebuyer education classes and helping to build her house— and her little family of three moved into their new home on Montrose Avenue the next fall (the photo above was taken while the home was being built).
The first thing she started doing was landscaping and working to make the yard feel like home. She planted what she thought was a little bush in the front yard. And as that bush started to grow, life for her family started to change.
Her little kids started playing outside in their spacious yard. Her older kids and grandkids got to come over more than they could at the small apartment. She started hosting and decorating for the holidays. Her little ones got to have birthdays at the house, and parties. They had shared a room for five years, and the house gave them their own space to start to grow up in.
“Looking back with hindsight at the last twelve years, I can see that our house just made us closer as a family,” Betty reflects. “It made us more relaxed because we did not need to worry about where we lived. It allowed each of us in the house to focus on our dreams. It gave us wings.”
Betty also became close with her neighbors over the years. As she got to know them, she got to know their stories too. One of her neighbors, now in her mid-90s, had lived there since the street was a dirt road. Another neighbor, Betty learned, was the one who sold Habitat the lot that Betty’s house was built on. Betty recalls this fact with a sense of significance – it is not lost on her that this woman’s decision all those years ago helped make her own dream come true.
In August of this year, it became Betty’s turn to make a dream possible. She retired from her job at the television station with plans to move out of town. In a powerful decision that brought her life full circle, she decided to sell her house back to Habitat so that we could sell it to another family.
“Sitting at the title company table twelve years ago as the buyer was the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life. Knowing that I could actually buy my own, brand-new house was the greatest feeling in the world,” Betty says. “But then selling the house back twelve years later— knowing I was giving someone the same opportunity I had – that absolutely filled my heart. I know so well the way that dream feels, so to know I am making that dream come true for someone else is indescribable.”
Today, that “little bush” that Betty planted in her front yard has become a beautiful, 40-foot Italian cypress tree. It casts a long morning shadow across the front lawn and makes the house look charming and refined. We passed under that tree earlier this month as we walked up to the house on Montrose Avenue to show it to another woman for the first time. She currently rents a small apartment, and we were there so that she could see if it might be the right house for her and her family. She has always dreamed of owning a home…