On the corner of Howard and Navarro proudly stands two homes built in partnership with over 750 volunteers; committed city and corporate partnerships; youth groups; faith-based organizations and generous donors. On the morning of December 3rd, the community gathered for a home dedication to celebrate the future homeowners – Johnny, Nely, their three boys and Rene, Elizabeth and their three children.
Years ago, this was the site of a liquor store that attracted undesirable behavior in the neighborhood. After it burned down twice, it was converted into a community garden, which eventually dissipated. When SGV Habitat began construction earlier this year, the corner represented a new beginning for the neighborhood and the two families who will achieve the American Dream of homeownership.
“Everybody thinks about the City of Pasadena as ‘The Rose Bowl’ or ‘The Parade of Roses’—no, it’s about the people. The people are the most important part of our community,” Tyron Hampton, City Council Member Representing District 1, said as he welcomed the families to his district.
That sentiment was seen and felt as close to 100 gathered to acknowledge the achievements of this momentous day. Distinguished volunteers, Bill and Neil, were also recognized for their service by Luis Jimenez, Construction Site Supervisor. Neil is a regular volunteer who contributed over 300 volunteer hours on this project. William (Bill) has been a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity for over 23 years and has dedicated over 8 of those with SGV Habitat.
“These volunteers are dedicated to the mission that everyone deserves an affordable and decent place to live. They are more than volunteers, they are our Habitat family,” Luis said his voice breaking with emotion.
Throughout the construction neighbors have visited the site offering water, food, and kind words to the staff and volunteers. The graciousness of the neighborhood was on display during the dedication with welcoming words and gifts from the neighborhood watch committee.
“In this neighborhood, something special happens–first you become our neighbor; then you become our friend; and then you become our family,” said Carmen Cortez a longtime resident and neighborhood watch leader.
Gift baskets, which included citrus fruits plucked from several neighbor’s trees, were presented to the two families. This fruit represents the heritage of citrus groves that were prevalent in early Pasadena, many of these trees still stand, dating back to the 1800’s. Keeping with this heritage, citrus trees were planted in the yards at Howard and Navarro.
As part of their partnership with SGV Habitat, each of the families have put in hundreds of hours working on these homes. (As part of the homeownership program, homebuyers contribute sweat equity hours – these are required volunteer hours on the construction site, events, at our ReStores or administrative offices.) Rene was volunteering and put in nearly 400 hours on the project before his family knew they had been qualified to purchase this home.
“I was having fun working on the house, meeting the other volunteers, even before I knew that this would be our home. I will still put in hours even after we move in. It is a good feeling to volunteer and help others.” – Rene, future Howard Navarro homeowner
Johnny and his oldest son Angel have worked on the project almost every weekend. Before these families found the homeownership opportunity with Habitat for Humanity, they thought their only option for homeownership was moving away from the communities where they have employment and where their children have grown up and have friends and activities.
Thanks to the support of volunteers, donors, corporate sponsors, city, and state officials, they will thrive in the community they love, with the support system of family and friends.
“We appreciate every one of your prayers written on the beams of this house, those said in silence or spoken together. This has been the most heartfelt experience for my family,” said Johnny, Howard Navarro future homeowner, while thanking the supporters.
The completion of the Howard and Navarro project is part of SGV Habitat for Humanity’s Expanding the American Dream campaign, which will serve 100 families over 3 years through homeownership and home repair.
We wish the families many blessings in their new homes.