Volunteers are hard at work on the construction site building three homes for three local families. There has been a steady flow of volunteers laying foundation, shingling roofs, installing doors and windows, and painting walls since construction started again in February. When you get involved with Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, you help hardworking, low-income families build the strength, stability and independence they need to create a better life for themselves and their children. Affordable housing is out of reach for so many of our community’s hardworking families and a full-time job is no guarantee that a family can afford a decent place to live in Bradley County.
These are families like Guillermo and Stephanie Vega.
The Vega’s are both from Puerto Rico, but their families moved to the United States when they were both young. When they moved to Cleveland, they instantly knew it was a perfect fit for their family. “Cleveland is peaceful,” said Stephanie. “It’s small enough that everyone knows each other, and I love that it is such a faith-oriented and service-oriented town.”
Together, the couple has four young children: Nevaeh (7 years old), Natalia (5 years old), Naiya (2 years old) and Nathan (7 months old). The Vega’s are a tight-knit family who enjoy playing outside together, watching science films and are very involved at First Baptist Church.
The Vega’s currently live in a small apartment in a very unsafe neighborhood. The Vega family’s vehicle was stolen from their driveway, and a grocery store in the neighborhood was recently held-up at gun point. “When more and more crimes began happening in our neighborhood, we knew we had to make a change,” said Guillermo.
Vega is working full-time at Peyton’s Southeastern with hopes of one day completing his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. His wife cares for their children and also makes jewelry and crochets baby clothes in order to provide a little extra income. However, their low-wage jobs make it impossible for them to afford a better place to live.
Guillermo and Stephanie learned about Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland and were accepted into the program based on their need and willingness to partner in the program. They have been building their home alongside volunteers, investing more than 300 hours of “sweat equity.” “Completing these hours shows we are willing to work for what we want, and it has also helped us to gain so much experience in making home repairs,” said Stephanie.
When construction is complete, they will pay an affordable mortgage and this hardworking family will have a permanent place to call home. When asked what her house will look like, Stephanie said excitedly, “We will have four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a full kitchen!” Guillermo added that they are very excited about having a back deck and a garden, too. “Our home will run on island time,” Guillermo added with a smile.
“Owning a home has been a goal for our family for a long time now,” said Stephanie. “Owning our own home means financial security and safety. We want our kids to know that if we can do this, they can do this, too.”
In order to qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home, potential homeowners must provide hundreds of volunteer hours towards that requirement. The Vega family has been very active on the construction site, coming out almost every weekend to work on their home and they have also worked in the Habitat ReStores. Chip Willis, Habitat for Humanity Executive Director, spoke very highly of the Vega family. “It’s been a great pleasure getting to know Guillermo and Stephanie and their children,” said Willis. “We have so many other families seeking to become homeowners like the Vega’s and we have an exciting opportunity that could make homeownership a reality for several families. An anonymous donor has offered to donate $75,000 if we can match that gift with another $75,000! We need the community to step in and help us reach that goal so that we can build several more homes this year.” Anyone wishing to help can contact Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland.