Gjornae’s New Beginnings

September 6, 2023

Gjornae’s New Beginnings

Gjornae’s sky-blue five-bedroom, two-bathroom home just east of what was the abandoned, former Wintergreen Apartments site is more than a home. It’s a fresh start—a new beginning for her family. Gjornae (pronounced Jor-nay) and her family –fiancé, Tirrell, mother, Cathleen and nephew, Amir – celebrated this new beginning Aug. 11 as Habitat for Humanity of Omaha dedicated the first six new homes and their homeowners in the long-awaited Bluestem Development.

For Gjornae owning her first home has been a journey of more than a year, but it has been a lifetime goal. She said she is a lifelong learner, but “in school, they don’t teach you about establishing and maintaining credit.” I didn’t know how to maintain my credit cards.” Not surprisingly, Gjornae said, she got herself into a bind.

At first, Gjornae turned to Google. Yes, the giant search engine can help you find anything. “I researched debt when I needed things like a car,” she said. “Once I researched it, I started paying off debt.” That was the spark the senior patient access services representative at Nebraska Medicine needed to understand she could have her own home.

But Google cannot account for life. Gjornae started out renting a subsidized apartment. Financial setbacks and her mother’s health issues changed all that. She moved into her mother’s home. It sometimes was difficult to keep her homeownership dream at the top of her mind. Things like debt, relationships, loss of a job and a car accident always seemed to get in the way.

“I was so stressed out by life,” she said. “But just like a heartbeat going up and down, so is life. If you go flatline, you’re dead. That’s why I keep going. Keep pushing. That’s living.”

A little over a year ago and working at a job she loves, Gjornae heard about Habitat for Humanity of Omaha’s Bluestem Development. She reached out to Habitat Omaha and qualified for homeownership counseling. After attending classes, her long homeownership journey didn’t seem dreamlike anymore. It was becoming a reality.

“Habitat gave me the tools,” Gjornae said. Literally. “During my sweat equity (Individual Habitat homeowners are required to contribute up to 200 hours of sweat equity), I learned how to use a nail gun and other tools. I can go to a home improvement store and rent tools. I know what to do.”

Habitat Omaha also helped Gjornae with financial readiness classes, counseling and handling the reams of paperwork required to achieve homeownership. “I have to admit, I was discouraged at times.”

The fresh start will include lots of family. “We’re going to start with a housewarming party.” Always the pragmatist, Gjornae said, “That’s where you get your pots, pans and crockpots,” she said. “I’m not in a rush. I’m going to get things done right.”

The thrill of homeownership “feels wonderful,” Gjornae said. “It’s a rush of excitement and cheers to new beginnings and a new start. It (my home) is fresh and clean. Something I can build my family on. I’m happy about the generational wealth it is building. It’s all about stabilizing myself, making something mine, and passing it down to my own kids or nephews.

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