Athena served in the Army as an all-wheel mechanic in 2001 before being medically discharged in 2003. While she was still living on a military post in Louisiana, she purchased a home sight unseen in Omaha, Nebraska. Athena trusted that her friend who reviewed the property on her behalf would be diligent, but when she arrived at the house after a long drive with her young son, she discovered a prominent gas leak.

The smell was so bad that Athena and her son couldn’t remain in the home with the gas on. A gas company representative said turning the gas off was the only solution. Athena could not afford to go out to eat, and she couldn’t make it through winter in Omaha without heat or hot water.

A friend told her about the veterans repair program of Habitat for Humanity and The Home Depot Foundation, and she contacted her local Habitat affiliate. A representative came right away to evaluate the home, and he decided that fixing the gas leak and replacing the furnace wouldn’t be enough. The home also needed new windows and exterior doors, wiring and electrical repairs, and new air conditioning vents throughout. Volunteers also fixed the gutters and trim on the exterior of the home, and a heating and cooling specialist ensured the air conditioning unit would be in great shape for the summer.

“It was, for me, such a blessing,” Athena says. “I have been through so much — been homeless so many times. As a single mom, it was really hard on me. I never had anything of my own, and all of a sudden these people came in and helped me. It was amazing.”

Athena’s son was born in Costa Rica, and he lived there until 2017. When he saw how Habitat and The Home Depot Foundation were helping his family, he was shocked that programs like that existed.

“Now he understands that good things can happen,” Athena says. “Habitat for Humanity changed my life forever. It made me look at things differently. Habitat saved me and my son.”