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Habitour With San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity

Last Saturday the Valley Sun was invited to go on a Habitour with the San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity. The tour included two construction sites and a visit with a family that received a life- changing chance to be a homeowner.

The tour began at Habitat’s office in Pasadena on N. Fair Oaks. The office is full of construction equipment including paint, doors, appliances and tools among other items that have been donated for sale.

“Construction people love this place,” said Sonja Yates, executive director of SGV Habitat. Sales generated assist with Habitat’s efforts.

Yates began the tour with a DVD that was produced thanks to donations and guidance from Don Goodman, president of Walt Disney’s Imagineering. The informational film was hosted by Harrison Ford and included volunteers, many from Crescenta Valley and La Cañada including Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, describing what Habitat gives to others and how it can make a difference.

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“It is a hand up, not a hand out,” Portantino said.

“They don’t just build homes, they change lives,” said Ford.

The tour then continued in Glendale to a construction site near Palmer Avenue and La Boice. Several volunteers had been working the site since early morning, including Levent Akbarut and other members of the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge. At a recent ICLCF meeting, the organization invited several members of the community to the Roger Barkley Community Center to speak to their group on a variety of outreach programs. Emily Mullranin from SGV Habitat spoke at that meeting and inspired several members to take a Habitour of their own. Last weekend was the first time members joined with other volunteers to work side-by-side to build a home. It is not an easy job; volunteers work at hammering nails, dry walling, painting and digging holes for plumbing.

“We have a manager help guide them,” Yates said.

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“This is what happens when you work in an office,” Akbarut said, showing his blister-filled hands.

Although the work may be different than most are used to, it is worth it. According to Akbarut, the community of volunteers and the knowledge that you are helping a family is worth any blister. It is also a way of meeting others who also have outreach programs, like Big Sunder Jewish Center and Bentley Prince Street, a carpet store that not only sent volunteers to work at the homes but also donated all the carpeting for the project. Blisters aside, the ICLCF will be returning to help with SGV Habitat at the end of June.

The next stop on the tour was the future site of the Kenwood Condominiums in Glendale. This is an ambitious project, the largest SGV Habitat has attempted. There will be 11 units on the property, all two stories with subterranean parking and landscaping. This will give 11 families a place to call their own and help not only to turn the empty lot from a dried storage area to a well kept housing complex, but will help bring students to the Glendale Unified School District, which is suffering from declining enrollment.

Then there was a trip the home of a family who had emigrated from the Philippines. The father had come over to the United States, received a green card and worked for four years before he was able to bring his wife and children over. The mother worked for many years in the garment district, sponsored by a manager, until she received a green card. They qualified for a Habitat home and moved in about three years ago.

“Habitat turned our life around,” said the father.

He, his wife and five children were living in a small apartment.

“We had a very nice landlord but the ceiling leaked, and we never knew when our rent was going up,” said the mother.

For a family to qualify for a Habitat home they must first meet the financial need requirement, must prove their ability to pay the zero interest loan and be a willing partner with Habitat, volunteering time to help at the construction sites.

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The family now lives in a comfortable home, their children are successful in school with their oldest son in college majoring in accounting and the parents are preparing for their citizenship interviews. They remind their children how lucky they are to live in America and how grateful they are to their community.

“A lot of kids don’t recognize the opportunities they have here,” said the mother.

They also continue to support and volunteer with SVG Habitat.

“The whole Habitat experience is to give back to the community,” said the father.

Which they continue to do in many ways from Habitat to volunteering at their children’s schools.

Because of the screening process of Habitat families, there has never been a recipient that has not paid their home loan and not one home within the SGV Habitat has been sold. They keep the homes to pass down to their children, Yates said.

The most notable aspect of the Habitat experience is the strength of the family and the community.

“Getting a home of their own really reinforces families,” Yates said.

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To donate or volunteer with the SGV Habitat for Humanity, go online to www.sgvhabitat.org or call (626) 792 3838.


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