17-year Habitat homeowner reflects: ‘It’s a circle’
Seventeen years ago, Gabriela and her four daughters walked into their newly built home feeling accomplished and optimistic about their future.
Since that day, their house has provided safety and comfort to Gabriela, her children and their extended family. The five-bedroom house has allowed Gabriela to care for many, including her grandmother, her mother who had cancer and her father who underwent knee surgery.
“Our house has been a blessing,” Gabriela said. “It has been a home to many people.”
Shortly after filing for a divorce, Gabriela made the decision to apply for Habitat Omaha’s Homeownership Program so she could finally give her daughters a stable place to call home.
“I can tell how much having our own house meant to them,” Gabriela said. “They all finished high school and went on to study careers they’re passionate about.”
Her oldest daughter is a paraprofessional for Omaha Public Schools. She is studying to become a middle school teacher. Her second oldest is a beautician and has her own business. Her third daughter is a supervisor at a health clinic and her youngest, Joanna, is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Gabriela also accomplished many goals. She earned her GED certificate and became a licensed massage therapist. Now, she’s focused on remodeling her home with Joanna’s help.
“When I bought the house, I didn’t have a lot of extra time or money,” she said. “My parents ended up buying stuff they found at yard sales, so I ended up with furniture that didn’t match.”
In March, Joanna told Gabriela she was planning to volunteer at Habitat Omaha for a school project. Gabriela’s eyes filled with tears of joy as she said, “Mija, did you know we have this house thanks to that organization?”
Gabriela took out a box filled with artifacts including newspapers and photos from 2002. She told Joanna about the times she spoke to groups about the importance of homeownership alongside Amanda Brewer, Habitat Omaha’s CEO.
As they looked through the artifacts, Gabriela realized St. Cecilia Cathedral was one of the churches that helped build her home.
“I’ve volunteered with them,” she said. “I told Joanna, ‘it’s a circle. We got help from Habitat and St. Cecilia and now we’re able to help them.’”
Volunteering has become very important to Gabriela and her daughters. She currently volunteers with the Women’s Center for Advancement, answering calls on the weekends.
“It can be difficult,” Gabriela said. “But if you want to make a difference in your community you have to be willing to help even if it’s difficult to hear sometimes.”
Gabriela says she’s thankful for Amanda, who taught her the importance of giving back, and for everyone who supported her throughout her homeownership journey. She’s looking forward to paying off her mortgage soon and continuing to watch her family succeed.
“Once I knew I had a house for my girls, I felt like I could explore other areas and try new things,” she said. “I feel good about what we’ve accomplished so far.”