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Howard-Navarro Homes Get the Royal Treatment

(from left to right) Salia Baligh, Sahanna Rajinikanthan, Michelle Cortez-Peralta, Bella Ballard, Zoe Denoncourt, Uma Wittenberg, Adrian Crick.

The Howard-Navarro homes received royal treatment on Saturday, November 12th, when the Tournament of Roses 2023 Royal Court participated in a volunteer day.

When Michelle, Royal Court Princess, walked onto the property, she had a sense of familiarity. Growing up, her family lived on Navarro and would come to this site when it was a community garden.

“I remember we used to plant vegetables here,” Michelle said pointing to the house site. “It is amazing that I’m here again, but this time engaging in a hands-on way helping complete these homes for 2 families,” she said with gratification.

Michelle concentrating on the details

This year’s Tournament of Roses theme is “Turning the Corner.” It is described by the President of the Tournament of Roses, Amy Wainscott, as a theme that can have a different meaning based on personal experience.

“For some, it can mean putting difficult times behind them, said Wainscott. “For others it can represent the unlimited potential that each new year brings. It can address a significant challenge that was overcome or achieving a new goal.”

At SGV Habitat, “Turning the Corner” has incredible significance, not only for the Howard-Navarro property, but for the two families that will soon call this home.

These homes sit on the corner of Howard and Navarro, which once was the location of a liquor store that burned down 2 times and was a magnet for less than desirable neighborhood activity. Thereafter, it became a community garden, which eventually dissipated. When SGV Habitat began construction it became a symbol in the community, turning the corner of past memories, and creating an environment of community support. Neighbors come by regularly offering words of kindness and food and beverages for staff and volunteers. Vincent, a talented craftsman, and resident in the neighborhood, even built and donated the exterior doors to the homes. Each week volunteers show up to work on the home, some returning regularly and have worked on the project from the raising of the first walls.

Rene, who is now one of the homeowners, is a veteran in the US Army. His family of 5 has lived in a one-bedroom apartment for 20 years. He has been volunteering 2-3 days a week since July on the Howard-Navarro homes before he even knew he would one day be the new homeowner. (Part of the pathway to homeownership program requires participants to put in volunteer hours, which we call sweat equity.) Learning that he would own one of the Howard-Navarro homes was his own “Turning the Corner” moment that leaves him with tremendous gratitude.

“My family and I are very grateful to SGV Habitat for this opportunity,” Rene said. “It is a life changing moment. We are thankful to everyone for making this happen. As a veteran, I can’t say enough about how much this helps. There are so many veterans that need support. I encourage people to give to Habitat, so others can benefit from this program,” he continued with earnest.

“It is a great feeling, knowing we are working on a veteran’s home, who served our country, and now, we are able to serve him,” said Michelle, Royal Court Princess.

The young ladies of the 2023 Royal Court are an inspiration for our youth who wish to volunteer in their community. We are grateful for their participation. For more information about our youth partnership program visit or contact Sophia Cruz at

We look forward to seeing these accomplished, warm and kind-hearted ladies of the royal court represent Pasadena on January 2nd 2023 at the Tournament of Roses Parade and to seeing our homeowners move into their new homes in the coming weeks.

Uma, Michelle and Bella


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