Family gets keys to the American Dream
A Cape Coral family’s lives were changed for the better Wednesday morning, thanks to Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry counties.
Eduardo Quintana and Liz Valdes had been living in a small room in a Cape Coral house with their 2-year-old son where conditions, they say, were less-than-ideal.
Now, the couple has a brand new, 1,340-square-foot home in the Cape after completing 300 hours of work with Habitat and making a $1,700 closing cost payment. The Edwardson Family Foundation served as the “home sponsor” for the project.
“We’re very emotional,” said Quintana. “Habitat is a wonderful program. We’re very happy.”
By the smiles on their faces during the dedication and upon receiving the key to their new home, it’s safe to say happy was an understatement.
The young couple have been living in the United States for four years, coming from Cuba, and said having this home is a big step towards living the “American Dream.”
“We are Cubans who came to this country to better ourselves,” said Quintana. “To accomplish this goal is a big deal. It’s a big step. We have a son who is 2-years-old who was born here, so we are part of this community — the American community. It’s hard to find the right words to describe how happy we are and how thankful we are.”
Quintana works at a Walmart Supercenter, while Valdes is getting set to graduate from nursing school this January.
The previous home they were renting a room in was shared with a chimney, where they said they’d often find critters coming into their already small space.
The small living space, capped with their son and unfriendly conditions, sparked the couple to find a better environment for their child.
“It’s incredible the difference and the change,” said Valdes. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this moment. We had to be strong and had to hold on and be patient living in that situation. Finally, this day arrived.”
The couple found out about Habitat for Humanity from a family friend. When their child was born, they realized their need was even greater and applied.
“Habitat gave us the opportunity to achieve one of the American Dreams,” Valdes said. “You meet people that believe in you and give you the opportunity to better yourself. We’re very happy with everything, especially with how beautiful this house looks.”
The dedication ceremony saw a blessing of the house, where each person present put one hand against the wall and bowed their heads while a blessing was read.
The Harry Chapin Food Bank donated groceries to the family, so that they would not start their new lives with empty cabinets. Habitat also provided them with an American flag, personalized Bible and door knocker.
The Garden Club of Cape Coral also presented the family with a plant and new hose.
While the couple was immensely grateful for all of the gifts, they had to put in work themselves to make this happen.
The two completed 100 hours of construction work with Habitat, or what they like to call, “sweat equity,” as well as an additional 200 hours worked at local stores, administration offices or special events. They also took home ownership classes.
They now have a three bedroom, two bathroom home with a one-car garage and backyard for the little one.
“Habitat for Humanity is a hand-up, not a hand-out,” said Elisha Baird, community program director for Habitat of Lee and Hendry counties. “We dedicate each and every home Habitat closes — about 65 homes this year is what our goal is.”
The was a special week for Habitat, as 11 homes around Southwest Florida were dedicated to deserving owners this week alone.
Baird said 11 homes in a week is an unprecedented number, but that she’s happy to be making an impact in the community.
“It’s an amazing, amazing feeling,” Baird said. “It fills me up to be able to be part of this and a part of these partner families — they really become a part of our family.”
The new homeowners feel the love, too.
“We are Habitat’s family. It’s all a big family,” said Quintana.
-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj