Humane Street

Glendale News Press

Saturday was the finish line for the Riveras and 10 other families who helped build their new homes alongside dozens of volunteers through Habitat for Humanity.

The six Riveras will leave their two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment for the modern, three-bedroom town house, complete with 1 1/2 bathrooms, living room, laundry room and subterranean parking.

Families begin moving into the first homes they've ever owned this week.

"My dad is so hardworking . . . and he had the opportunity to work toward something and see a physical manifestation of it," said Marlene Rivera. "Seeing him waking up in the morning, putting in his hours [on the town house], come home for two seconds and get into uniform to go to work until 11 p.m. — that's what he did in between dropping off the girls at school."

For his part, Noel Rivera, Marlene's father, said all the work has been about bettering his family. Noel and Sandra Rivera emigrated in 1979 from war-torn Nicaragua. They bounced around, and since 1986, they've lived in Glendale and ushered their children through local schools.

"There were a lot of bruises and blisters — I finally grew my nail back," he said. "It was so gratifying, and I got to meet people from all walks of life."

The town houses are the sixth Habitat for Humanity project in Glendale. The organization relies on volunteers, and donated goods and services to turn vacant lots into sustainable homes for low-income, first-time home buyers, said Don Goodman, a senior vice president with the Walt Disney Co. and a board member of the San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity.

"With the subterranean parking, we've never done anything this hard before," he said. "This stretches what you can train inexperienced volunteers to do."

Future homeowners put in at least 500 hours of the sweat equity, which organizers say makes Habitat for Humanity projects more of a community than a residence.

"There's a commitment of homeownership," Mayor Ara Najarian said. "They immediately become part of the fabric of the community."

All told, the Kenwood Avenue homes represent 58,000 hours of work by 4,000 volunteers, organizers said.

"As usual, Habitat for Humanity came through with flying colors," said City Councilman Frank Quintero. "It's another great day for Glendale, and we'll be doing it again real soon."

The only thing stopping a groundbreaking on a seventh Habitat for Humanity project, this one on Geneva Street, is $400,000, city officials said.

The Housing Authority spent more than $1.5 million to acquire the land, which sat vacant for 20 years, said Peter Zovak, the city's deputy housing director.

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