Falcon Bank Donates to Habitat for Humanity (August 19, 2006)
Falcon Bank Donates to Habitat for Humanity (August 19, 2006)Falcon donates land to Habitat for Humanity's next project in Las Blancas Subdivision
Tierra Prometida - the Promised Land - may be a Biblical reference, but for 50 families living on Highway 359, it will soon be home. Habitat for Humanity of Laredo broke ground for the colonia alternative project at the intersection of Highway 359 and Judith Gutierrez Parkway on Friday with an audience of honored guests, volunteers and homeowners alike.
The10 - acre tract of land donated by private developers Dicky Haynes, Jesus Ruiz and Arnulfo Gonzalez will be the site for the Las Blancas subdivision, an ambitious project expected to provide 50 new homes for families who currently live in substandard housing. Falcon International Bank also donated a tract of land to Habitat for Humanity of Laredo for the purpose and construction of a public dedicated road (Judith Gutierrez Parkway) allowing access to the Subdivision from Highway 359.
Carol Sherwood, volunteer executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Laredo, emceed the ceremony, paying tribute to the dozens of individuals and organizations that contributed to establishing what was once merely a vision. Sherwood said that Habitat attempts to change the poverty that has virtually become a part of the modern landscape, and acknowledged both current and future Habitat homeowners.
"They above all others, are the most honored guests at this ceremony," Sherwood said, referring to the soon-to-be Habitat homeowners. "We want decent, wonderful families who will be good neighbors to each other."
Mario Elizondo, a current Habitat homeowner in another subdivision, said building his new home was an emotional journey and improved his family's quality of life.
"When they told us we were approved, we were so excited, we were crying, we were happy. I still remember that day," he said. "In the last five months we have been living in our house, and our lives have changed dramatically in a good way."
Elizondo described Habitat as a family he was proud to be a part of, and gave his own advice to the future homeowners in the audience.
"I just have on thing to say: enjoy every moment of building your house, and take a lot of pictures," he said.
Families eligable for the homes must put in 500 hours of "sweat equity," meaning family members approved for housingmust work on their own or another family's Habitat home in lieu of paying interest for the $40,000 to $50,000 homes.
"We have a great time with it and the families love it," Sherwood said.
Maria Gamez, a Habitat homeowner partner, said she has completed about 200 sweat equity hours toward her own abode.
"It's very nice to meet other people and to be working," she said, adding that she enjoys learning her new construction skills.
In addition to homeowners, Sherwood recognized others in the audience, including Commissioner Judith Gutierrez. Sherwood congratulated the commissioner, who was on hand for the groundbreaking in her precinct, and described Gutierrez as being "instrumental in the work for the colonias and the Habitat for Humanity."
Gutierrez said the area would be further developed after plans for a $1 million park project adjacent to the Self Help Center are complete; Haynes, one of the developers, said a Catholic Church should also be soon to follow.
Sherwood also credited Carlos Mejia, an engineer who donated about $100,000 worth of services to the project. The first street leading into the subdivision will be named Mejia Road, she said.
Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas, City Manager Larry Dovalina, Community Development Director Ronnie Acosta, Building Director Erasmo Villareal, Commissioner Jerry Garza and incoming commissioner Wawi Tijerina were among special guests recognized at the ceremony by Habitat for Humanity. Also recognized were representatives of HUD, Bethany House and the South Texas Food Bank.
Sherwood said about $800,000 had already been invested in Tierra Prometida from Habitat International and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant money, although the project still lacks about $300,000 for infrastructure development. She is confident the money will be raised.
"It doesnt take much to buy a door or a window wh en we put our pennies and nickels together," she said.
Construction of homes should begin by Jan. 1, 2007, she said, explaining the organization expects about 400 collegiate volunteers to aid in construction during an alternative spring break.
But Habitat always needs volunteers, Sherwood said.
"We know at Habitat we can make a difference, one family at a time," she said.