For 15 years, care-a-vanners and local volunteers have worked countless hours to provide the American Dream to families in Alice and Ben Bolt.
Recently, an Alice family of four received the keys to their first home on Hill Street; an emotional time with family and friends that signifies the start of a new chapter.
Jose and Celena Rodriguez and their family worked along side couples as far away as Montana, Canada, South Dakota and New York have stopped in the Hub City to share their skills to build homes for Habitat for Humanity recipients.
The Rodriguez family are the recipients for the latest 15th home on West Hill Street.
“This house means that a place of our own to grow while making and sharing memories as a family,” Jose stated. “We entered into an organizations that gives back to communities with no expectation in return other than to pay it forward.”
Jose works as a bus driver. Monday through Friday he drive students from St. Joseph Catholic School to St. John Paul II High School while his wife Celeena works with the City of Alice.
Celeena was in tears the first time she saw the framework of her new home.
“The awesome volunteers have come to help my son and his family,” said Gloria Rodriguez. “They have opened their hearts to a family they don't know. They are ambitious about doing their work and doing their job right.”
“We are blessed by (these people) because they don't have to do any of this,” Jose stated. “They don't need to but it's how they show their love for humanity.”
Building a house from the foundation up is not an easy task. It takes tremendous work and sweat from care-a-vanners along with the family.
The Wilcox family have been to Alice three times to help build homes. This year, they assisted from the foundation to the framing work of the 15th home in Alice. They take about three weeks from their schedule and travel to different parts of the country to lend a hand with carpentry work.
“It's just a great place to come,” said Peggy Wilcox from South Padre Island. “It's been great working weather. We try to work when it's cool.”
The first set of couples work the months of November and December on the outside of the home including the siding. After the plumbing and electrical work is finished, the second set of care-a-vanners work through the Spring on the interior of the home from light fixtures to painting.
Than, in May or June, the family is handed the keys to the home along with a blessing from a local clergy.
Retired game warden, Bryce Christensen and his wife, Christine have also been to Alice three times and assisted with the construction of two homes.
“It's an incredible community,” Christine said. “Between Alice and Mason, Texas, both have great Habitat for Humanity programs. It's wonderful.”
They have helped with framing, walls and roofing.
“It's so heartwarming, we are the ones who are blessed,” Christine said. “We are called to be the Lord's hands and feet here on earth.”
Fernando (Fiddie) and Yvonne Lopez, house recipients for house number eight, said they are grateful for the care-a-vanners who are selfless and volunteer their time to help others.
With a tight financial budget, Fernando said, it was tough trying to find affordable housing.
“We always lived in government homes,” he said. “We were blessed, it was like winning the Publisher's sweepstakes.”
Recipients still have to pay for the mortgage, but at a more reasonable price.
“These people are great,” Fernando said. “Our house if almost paid off.”
Like the Lopezes, each family is required to volunteer at least 300 hours towards building their home.
The local Habitat for Humanity board also works along side the other volunteers to share their expertise and skills on the homes.
Fernando said the home has given his wife, a cancer survivor, hope.
“It gives her more spirit and life,” he said.
In the end, care-a-vanners say all the hard work pays off.
“It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun,” Peggy said. “We all enjoy it...working with the families is the most rewarding.”