Stories of Strength
Stable Home. Brighter Future.
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Terensio | Habitat Homeowner since 2010
Congratulations to Terensio - he paid off his Habitat mortgage in October 2020!
Terensio has the use of just one hand and arm. At age 22, he fled Sudan when the civil war broke out and spent 13 years in a refugee camp. During this time, he finished his high school education and became a teacher in the camp. In 1999, after waiting 18 months from when he first applied, the United Nations helped him relocate from Ethiopia to Louisville.
Without knowing how he would earn a living or where he was going to live, Terensio was determined to create a better life for himself. And, he did just that. After much hard work, Terensio was accepted into Habitat's homeownership program and moved into his new home in 2010.
"I want to be remembered as a man of strength and patience. During the toughest years of my life, I leaned towards God. He gave me the strength and tenacity to survive and complete passage to the United States and the chance for a better life."
Tamika | Habitat Homeowner since 2019
The lives of Tamika and her brother, Leonard changed in 2017 when their mother passed away. Tamika, who was 25 years old, and Leonard, who was 7, were in shock. “It caught us off guard. Her passing was so unexpected... it was just crazy,” Tamika says.
In the days following, Tamika and her son, Jemarion, moved back to Louisville and she began the process of obtaining guardianship of Leonard. “I knew I needed to act fast so he didn’t become a ward of the state.” That spring, Tamika received the good news that she was awarded guardianship of her brother and the newly formed family moved in together. “It got hard - mentally, financially - everything just got hard. We were renting so we had a place but we never had stability.”
Tamika first applied to Habitat’s program in early 2018. However, her application was denied due to her debt level. Despite her disappointment, Tamika was persistent. She received financial counseling from Habitat, was hired at a new company with a higher salary and the family moved into Tamika’s grandmother’s house. After nearly a year of working on her finances, Tamika reapplied and her application was approved!
“I am so thankful that Habitat is seeing potential in my family. Becoming a homeowner will give us a step forward in rebuilding our lives. This home will help me establish a strong, solid foundation for my kids’ futures,” Tamika says.
In the summer of 2019, Tamika hammered in the first nail into her family’s new home. “The boys and I are so excited. Our new home will have 3-bedrooms. The boys are especially excited because they’ll now have their own rooms. Of course, we’re looking forward to when we receive the keys to our new home!”
Tamika’s next goal after homeownership is finishing her education. “I have 2 years left until I receive my Accounting degree. I am excited for all these new adventures. Becoming a homeowner and then a CPA... I’ll get my family on the right path for success.”
Ellen | Habitat Homeowner since 2009
Through Habitat, I have strength to live my best life and a home to comfort my happy soul.
My journey was long and difficult to say the least. I had just filed for a divorce after 21 years of marriage, I had just been clean and sober for 1 year and I was in a deep dark place beyond mental happiness. I knew I could buy a house, but I thought it would be one that somebody else had already lived the life out of and I would be continuously repairing it for the rest of my life. Never would I have even dreamed of having a brand-new home built from the ground up.
It all started with me helping a friend at work look for a home on our lunch breaks. One day I was searching and a Habitat for Humanity box popped up. I thought why not? I answered the 3 simple questions and I got an application in the mail. Still unmoved and doubtful. Then, I got a home visit and interview with 2 wonderful ladies. I told them my story and figured they would just chuck my application and move on to someone with a family, as I was an older single lady. My divorce had taken all the life out of me, because my ex-husband got custody of my children due to him be better able to provide for them through his job at Ford. But, when I got the call at work saying I had been accepted – I cried and my eyes were opened to hope for a new life. As I volunteered and chose my lot, I began to believe in miracles. I began to feel worthy of blessings. I began to be a person who would participate in life.
To become a homeowner meant success to me. It meant that I had truly overcome my addiction and could live better. It meant I would be under construction on the next level of recovery. It meant that I was in charge of the future I longed for. It meant that I would not be under someone else’s roof and I was going to be a homeowner. Me, a homeowner…wow. Not even in marriage did that happen. I would have a place for my children, grandchildren and future generations to get together and bond positively. I had a dream. It gave me hope. God was answering my prayers and I felt worthy to ask Him for His Blessings. I prayed before that, but with my head down and shamefully.
The process also allowed me to have relationships with my children and grandchildren. They came on weekends to help me build my sweat equity hours. To me that meant that I was part of their lives again. I had run and hid for so many years while in addiction. We smiled and hugged. We had meals together. We made plans and I was so grateful to not have lost those relationships, as so many do under the grip of addiction. Life was beginning to be full of vibrant colors and not as dull as before my Habitat acceptance. I was on the road to the rest of my life.
Once my home was Blessed, I moved in and began to feel free from the bondage of my past life, I made more plans to enhance myself and the world around me. I took an accelerated CNA course and got certified. I changed jobs and enrolled in college to further build myself up for living as a single woman. I began to feel that I could conquer whatever I wanted to. I got my Associates Degree in Health Information Technology. I was selected to be sent Student representative for JCTC and then Student Rep for all 16 Kentucky community colleges. Straight through Spring, Summer, Fall classes for 4 years I came out with my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services and Professional Counseling. I was a new woman. I started doing more in the community; I joined the Neighborhood Association, Kentuckians for The Commonwealth and was asked to sit on the Board of Directors for The Smoketown Family Wellness Center, where I still hold a seat 5 years in.
All these things happened because Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville helped me to become a homeowner. I had the best advocate anyone could ask for and we shared a name. 10 years later we are still friends and have shared many meals, birthdays, tears and laughter together. My Habitat adventure has been the best package of joy a person could hope for in this life. God has carried me, lead me and gifted me with all possible love, life, light and peace through the home titled “My Blue House”. It is my world, my sanctuary, my home!
Michelle | Habitat Homeowner since 2018
How do I say thank you? To the wonderful people who made my dream come true. For the outpouring of love you have shown to me and my children, you didn’t have to do it, but you did anyway. And I’m forever grateful. Habitat for Humanity and Brown-Forman, I can’t thank you enough for my beautiful home.
When I found out who my house leader was, everyone said that Mr. Steve and his team were the best. And they were absolutely correct. I will never doubt the capability of 80 and 90-year-old men ever again! I’ve never seen anything like that in my life! The construction team went above and beyond the call of duty and I can’t thank them enough. Mr. Steve has met all of my neighbors and he gave me the rundown of the whole block. And to know they did all this for me, makes them even more amazing in my eyes. I’m still in shock of the transformation. Mr. Steve, Mr. Phil and the crew – I salute you!
Brown-Forman was the absolute best. Not only were they a financial sponsor, but also their employees came and put in some manual labor as well. My beautiful home wouldn’t have been the same without your love and support. From the construction meeting at Brown Forman all the way up until today, they have been present in my Habitat journey and a great support system to lean on.
Being in the Habitat Homebuyer program was not easy. I spent my whole summer working to complete my 400 sweat equity hours. I missed a lot of church and I can’t even tell you how many allergy shot and barbershop appointments my kids missed. But they’re still alive.
Not only am I thankful for my mom, but all of my family and friends have been very supportive of me. Thank you all for everything from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for listening to me when I needed to vent. Thank you for encouraging me to keep pushing on those days when I wanted to give up. Thank you for loving me and believing in me. Y’all made this process so much easier.
Nevertheless, I appreciate everyone who has played a part in my life. No matter how big or small your role was, it made me who I am today. Brown-Forman and Habitat, once again, thank you, thank you, thank you. If I had ten thousand tongues, that still wouldn’t be enough to say thank you. My children and I are were so excited when we moved into our beautiful new home. Thank you once again for the best Christmas present ever, my new home.
Selena | Habitat Homeowner since 2012
Selena partnered with Habitat in 2012 and her journey to homeownership embodies the phrase of “never giving up one’s dreams.” Battling addiction, Selena successfully completed her recovery through The Healing Place and was hired on as their Director of Health Services. A few years later, she was promoted to Director of Health Services. After a successful career with The Healing Place, Selena is now back in school studying to become a Nurse and works for Jewish Hospital as a Nurse’s Aide. Selena shares, “Our home still looks brand new and I am still the proudest home owner on my block!”
We invite you to read Selena’s story, which was written by The Healing Place in 2012.
From Hopeless to Hopeful
Selena used to lay in her bed watching the show Intervention and think “Hey, that’s what I need!”
On April 23, 2008, an intervention was in the plans when Selena was picked up at the airport for a visit by her mom and stepfather. They took her to dinner and then to The Healing Place – her mom praying she would get out of the car.
“I have been tricked! I can’t stay here!”
Before she knew it, the smiling and glowing women who greeted her had completed her intake. However, as soon as she was told lights went off at 11:30 pm she was filled with fear. She had never been able to sleep reminding her of why she started drinking and using so young. When the lights went off, she wondered what she was going to do all night. Next thing she knew she was hearing “5:30am ladies – feet on the floor” and she realized she had slept all night! “That was my first God moment,” says Selena. “And He has been showing up ever since!”
Selena completed her program in 7 months, moved into the peer mentors office, and served as an OTS Coordinator. But more importantly, she saw her son on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 2004.
“I want to share the hope because I know what it feels like.”
From Homeless to Home Owner
Today, Selena not only serves as the Women’s Detox Supervisor but she is a new home owner thanks to Habitat for Humanity. Her resolve and determination to provide a new life for her and her son was obvious during her recovery program and well-illustrated in her application process for Habitat.
“I first applied for Habitat while in the peer mentor’s office but I didn’t make enough money so I reapplied when I became staff. Unfortunately, I had too much debt so I withdrew my application and spent a year paying my debt off to become deft free. I then reapplied and was accepted.”
Being able to physically build her home was empowering and served as a reminder that by getting sober there is nothing she could not do. It also provided many opportunities for Selena to share with others that “if people could see the places I’ve been or the things I’ve seen, they would know this is not of me but truly a miracle.”
Owning her own home and having a place for her and her son to be together is such a blessing – one that she definitely doesn’t take for granted.
“Today when I think about our new home, I can’t help but smile from ear to ear. I would like to thank God of my understanding for picking me up where I was and placing my where I am today; my family for loving me even when I couldn’t love myself; The Healing Place for getting me out of the problem and into the solution; Pam Scott for telling me I was too pretty and smart to waste my life on drugs and boys because I now believe it; and last but not least Habitat for the wonderful opportunity of home ownership and empowering me to do so!”
Selena and her son Jordan moved into their new home in June. She is a great reminder that The Healing Place is a place where hope is found and change happens.
Whitney | Habitat Homeowner since 2016
Whitney always dreamed of being a homeowner and providing the stability of a home to her then 4 year old daughter, Talya. In the fall of 2015, she pursued her goal by applying and being accepted into Habitat for Humanity’s homeownership program. Little did Whitney know that just over a year later and a mere six days before Christmas, she and her daughter Talya would have their Christmas tree up and boxes moved in to their very own Habitat home!
In addition to celebrating the holiday season in their new house, there was also a very special surprise for the mother and daughter one day when they came home. Hanging from the rafters on their new front porch was their very own porch swing; designed and built by volunteers the family worked alongside for the past five months.
“It was all that Talya ever talked about when we drove past other houses,” said Whitney. “Talya just loves the idea of a porch swing.”
The family’s home was originally set to finish in early January of 2017. However, after partnering with Whitney and Talya, learning their story and becoming close to both of them, Habitat volunteers moved the home build forward so the family could move in by Christmas.
As a last-minute Christmas surprise for Talya, generous Habitat volunteers built and hung a beautiful white oak, handmade swing on the family’s new front porch! The idea of surprising the family with this porch swing originated after Habitat volunteers read in their church bulletin about Talya’s excitement for her new home. Living in a Habitat home for Talya meant finally having a swing that she could play on hanging from her front porch. Touched by Talya’s simple wish, Habitat volunteers secretly installed additional blocking and hardware in the porch ceiling and surprised the family with this swing a few days after their home dedicated.
Whitney and Talya are forever grateful for the tremendous Habitat volunteers and the “Catholic Quartet,” who sponsored their family’s home. When asked what this entire Habitat experience has meant for her family, Whitney said it has been “a true blessing.”
Domonic | Habitat Homeowner since 2017
MY SAFE PLACE AND YES IT IS A HABITAT for Humanity HOME!
When I think of home, what do I think about? I think about a place where I feel safe. I feel love, comfortability, and support. A home is where I can build a family and a life. Four years ago, I didn’t know which way to turn. What was going to be my path? I looked around at my surroundings and realized, I deserve more. I deserve something to call my own. I thought, “let me sign up for Habitat for Humanity”. Doing so was one of the best decisions I made in my life.
I love telling people I own my own house. They look at me so surprised asking how did I do it. I say, with no hesitation, “Habitat for Humanity.” I think to myself, “Don’t let this cute baby face fool you. I am definitely more experienced than I look.” It really was an experience. It wasn’t easy, but the thing I love about this program was that they are understanding and work with you and your schedule. If I wasn’t financially on the right track, they got me there. If I didn’t know how to use a paint brush, they showed me. The workshops and building other habitat homes before starting on mines was a good learning experience. I learned things from budgeting to how to unclog my sink drain. The materials that are used in my house are very easy to handle.
The people that helped me with my house were the best. That is when I was in the classes and on sight of my house. My advisor taught me a lot in the classes I was required to take. If I had question til this day, she answers immediately and is very helpful. I know she is one to be counted on. One of the main things she personally recommended that financially help me was to open a bank account just for my mortgage. So, I set money aside a week just for that purpose and monthly I have a little extra out the account to save. My goal is by the time I finish paying off my house in my 20-year interest free mortgage is to have $20,000 in that account. I am very confident that I will get there. They gave me a mentor. I didn’t have access to transportation at times and she made sure I got to where I needed to go. She’s very loving and I couldn’t ask for a better mentor. I even had my own team and I get a reminder of them every day when I look at my quilt. Yes, my team leaders made me a quilt personally and I love it. They were very hands on and wasn’t afraid to get whatever that needed to be done, done. I remember when I cut myself while starting the dry wall process. I was a little disappointed because the dry wall was what I was waiting to do and was excited that I was finally my time to do my own dry wall. I’ve done it at a previous Habitat house. One of the team leaders took me to the doctor to get my finger stitched up. i didn’t panic and all because I knew with her, I was in good hands. They lead my team to build a home that will last my lifetime. My sponsors were more than what I asked for. Thankyou Papa Johns and Wells Fargo. On the day of my dedication they gifted me with much needed things for the house that I still use today. All the volunteers were having fun and enjoying the moment. I was glad that my experience was full of love, life and welcoming arms and the times we were working didn’t feel like work. It’s all about the people you are surrounded by and its good to know that there are good human beings out there that cares. Even when they don’t know who you are, they care.
I am so thankful for this opportunity to have been a part of such a positive organization. Walking into my house everyday feels great and needed. I needed my space and peace. I now have that in my life. Before I moved in my home, I didn’t have that. Now that I have this safe place, I call home, I can focus on the things that matters most to me. That growing as a person and bettering my life. My social life has gotten better based on the people I’ve met through Habitat for Humanity. My finances are better based on the classes I took. It’s good to say, “I helped build my home,” I would recommend any person or family to get in the program. Some people think its harder than it is. For me and my experience it was good. For some of the difficult moments, it was well worth it. I am proud to say that I am a Habitat for Humanity homeowner. Would you like to be one too?
Sohaib & Huda | Habitat Homeowners since 2020
In 2003, fresh out of college with a double major in linguistics and computer science, Sohaib began working alongside his uncle at a US military base that was once a palace of Sadam Hussein. He began as an electrician but just 5 months later, he was recruited by the US military to become a translator with the First Calvary – Infantry.
For the next three years, Sohaib’s role as a translator with the US military put his family in constant danger. Every day, Sohaib and his uncle would drive together the 15 mins to and from the palace. Sohaib says, “Our line of work was very dangerous. All we carried with us was an identification card.”
One morning in 2006, Sohaib received a phone call that would change everything for his family… his uncle had been killed. Sohaib says, “The Al-Qaeda set up a trap and shot him in the back of the head. I immediately thought on that morning that now that they’ve come for my uncle, I’m next.”
Sohaib kept his job as a translator with the US military and after nearly a year, he was kidnapped by radical extremists. Over the next 24 hours, Sohaib’s captures interrogated him every 10 minutes about his involvement with the US military. “I just kept saying no, you have the wrong guy. I couldn’t stop thinking about my wife and kids… what will happen to them after I am shot and killed.”
Nearing the 24-hour mark since his capture, Sohaib’s family had was able to pay a ransom for his release. The family fled to Syria and in 2008, nearly a year after his capture, the US military had secured the relocation of Sohaib’s family’s to the United States and the family began settling into their new life in Louisville.
“Even though what happened to me was so tragic for my family, I loved working with the US military and I was anxious to begin working with them again,” says Sohaib. So, in 2009 and until 2017, Sohaib began travelling across the United States to different military bases and was a Culture Advisor. “I would teach classes on Iraqi culture, traditions and history. And then to better prepare the soldiers before they went overseas, I would participate in playing out real-life scenarios and act as a translator.”
In 2017, Sohaib ended his work with the US military, began a steady job in Louisville as a Car Mechanic and the family was finally ready to become homeowners. “Our kids were getting older and nearing high school, our youngest was starting kindergarten, I was back in Louisville full-time. We were finally on a steady path and wanted a stable home for our kids,” says Sohaib. “Ever since our time in Iraq, Huda and I have wanted to provide our three kids with a safe home to grow up in. Our lives have been filled with tragedy and stress. Becoming homeowners will finally give us peace of mind.”
In the fall of 2019, the house began its Raise the Roof event; an anonymous donor in honor of veterans is sponsoring the family’s home. At the home’s ground blessing ceremony, Sohaib said, “My wife and I are so thankful for the opportunity to give our children the safety and security that a home provides. The US military has now saved my family twice.”
“My kids are especially excited for the new house. In fact, a little too excited because they ask almost every day when we’ll be moving in,” Sohaib jokingly says. “We’re just very grateful for the opportunity to provide a better life for our children.” A better life that Sohaib proudly says may involve the US military. “My two oldest are interested in following in my footsteps. My son, Ali, is very interested in the Air Force and my daughter, Maryam, wants to be an engineer with the military. I am a very proud dad.”