“It was meant to be,” said Maritza Nunez, as she quickly wiped away a tear. “From the minute I applied for a Habitat home, everything slipped into place.”
Nunez is emotional about her journey as a Clinton County Habitat partner.
She applied because a friend at work, Rashauna Medley, is a Habitat home partner, planning her house-building in 2019.
“Rashauna kept urging me to apply — I didn’t know if I would be able to meet the criteria as I had been unsuccessful applying for a traditional bank mortgage. I was discouraged,” admitted the California transplant. “I finally realized, what do I have to lose?” So, she applied.
That’s when things fell into place. It did not seem like it, as she was going through the tough parts.
First, she was notified last winter that her family’s application had been approved by the Habitat board. Maritza was informed that there would be a waiting period of at least three years because others, including her work friend Rashauna, would have their homes built before the Nunez home.
Maritza was glad to have her application approved, even though she knew it would mean waiting.
Then, her landlord informed her that she would have to move out of her rental home in Wilmington — she was given a short time to find another place.
She is the primary wage/care giver for her son, her mother and father.
“I had to act quickly and uproot everyone. My sister Lilian and her husband Chase asked us to move in with them while we waited for our Habitat home.”
They live in New Vienna, and Maritza wanted her son to grow up with his cousins and to be educated in the East Clinton school system. On her Habitat application, she had requested a New Vienna home site, if possible.
“One day in early spring, Tom Matrka, president of Habitat, called me. He asked me to come take a look at a Habitat house in Midland — it was abandoned. My mother and I went to look at it before the meeting — it was awful. I would not get out of the car. It was such a mess,” she said.
“My mother wanted me to think about it, but I thought, no, I can’t do this. She watches a lot of HGTV/home remodeling shows. She kept saying that we could do this and how amazing remodels are. I just couldn’t see how it could ever be a home — it was a disaster.”
“I decided to go tour the house. Family mentor Ed Blohm and Tom Matrka met me at the Midland home. They kept saying, “We can fix all of this. It will be completely remodeled. You need a home and you can have a home this year.
“Suddenly, I realized this was meant to be. Things will be fixed and I will have a home. Stephen could go to East Clinton Schools because I can drop him off on my way to work at Clinton Memorial.”
Blohm explained about the Midland property. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes an area Habitat family fails to take care of their home or they have issues that make it impossible for them to continue making payments on a no-interest loan.
Additionally, he said families must commit to sweat equity support of other Habitat buildings, not only their own homes. Not everyone wants that kind of commitment, even if the mortgage repayment is manageable and personalized for each family’s budget.
Sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way it should, he said.
Things moved into high gear when she decided to rehab the Midland home.
This was hard work for Nunez and her family. They spent all summer and fall rehabbing their new home. Her parents watched the grandkids while Maritza, her sister Lilian, her brother in law Chase and her sister Elizabeth wore protective clothing and masks to clear out the home, taking the flooring and some of the drywall down to the studs.
They filled two large dumpsters. All cabinets, lighting, fixtures and flooring were replaced.
Two Habitat volunteers Dan Kennelly and Tom McChain have worked tirelessly with the family, ensuring that all remodel and rehab matters were handled and anticipating each new project for the Nunez home.
The Midland home is down to just a few important items: new flooring, countertops and appliance installation.
In the next few weeks, those projects will be complete and Maritza, her son Stephen, her dad and mom Luis and Margarita will be moving from New Vienna to their forever home in Midland.
There is one last item on the list: it is a Habitat tradition that families put their names and the date of their home somewhere on the sub-flooring or walls.
Maritza and her son, Stephen, will be doing that for sure — tears of joy needed for that task.