November 07, 2019
It was 11 months ago in December of 2019 when United States Army veteran Mario, his wife Norma and their two children learned that they had qualified to partner with Habitat to build their home. Mario served as a medic in the United States Army for six years, during which he was deployed to Afghanistan between 2010 and 2011. While in Afghanistan, he performed clinical duties at Kandahar Air Field and assisted in training Afghanistan National Army and Police.
“It was exciting, you know?” said Mario. “It was just like a Godsend… (I thought) okay, thank you God, we’re gonna get a house.”
Habitat for Humanity partners with qualified low-income families to build their homes. The program is a hand up, not a hand out. Homes are built through donation of monetary funds, land, building materials, contractor services and volunteer labor. During a family’s partnership with Habitat, they complete 350 hours of sweat equity and home buyer education courses that both mentally and financially prepare them for successful home ownership. Upon completion of construction, families pay a long-term, affordable mortgage to Habitat.
For the first time in Comal County Habitat for Humanity’s history, home ownership education was taught through Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” which features step-by-step methods to money management like saving $1,000 for emergencies, paying off debt, saving 3 to 6 months of total household income and more. As part of Habitat’s Home Program, families are encouraged to bring any children 14 years and older to the home buyer education courses.
“Maddy (our daughter) got a job in the summer and she saved her money,” Norma said. “Half went to savings, half went to her. (She learned that) from the class.”
“I told her (my daughter), ‘look at mom and dad. I don’t want you to be like that,’” said Mario. “We spent $1,300 a month on going out to eat. That was just kind of like an ‘oh crap’ moment for me and Norma. If we’re gonna get a house… we need to stop. That needs to stop.”
During a Financial Peace University session, Mario and Norma realized they had incurred $30,000+ in debt. One of the steps Dave Ramsey teaches during Financial Peace is the “debt snowball” method – the idea is to pay off your smallest amount of debt first and then apply that payment amount in addition to your minimum payment of the next largest debt. As you continue to increase the payment towards each debt, you have the potential to pay off your debt much quicker.
“The class really changed us,” said Norma. “Seeing everything on paper and in writing… going out to eat, spending on all these electronics. Everything was ‘okay, let’s go’ and not really saying ‘you know that extra $300 could’ve gone to paying this bill off completely and we wouldn’t have it (any) more.”
It was through Comal County Habitat’s home buyer education courses that Mario and Norma realized their potential to qualify for a traditional mortgage.
“When we were in the program, we started saving and we knocked everything down like it says there you know, snowball,” Norma said. “Pay one bill off, that money (is) used for the other one and that’s exactly what I did.”
“This class (Financial Peace University) is gold,” Mario said. “Take everything to heart, write it down, record it, whatever you gotta do. Take a picture. This class is gold. That’s the only way we got this house.”
Soon after Mario and Norma’s decision to apply for a traditional mortgage, they withdrew their family from Comal County Habitat for Humanity’s Home Program. Due to their diligence and hard work, Mario and Norma recently moved their family out of Norma’s parent’s home and into their new four bedroom home here in New Braunfels.
“At Comal County Habitat, we want every family to have a safe, decent place to live- whether it’s through our Home Program or otherwise,” said Alan Rubiola, Communications Manager at Comal County Habitat for Humanity. “We are absolutely thrilled that Mario and Norma were able to pursue their dreams of homeownership through a traditional mortgage. This opens up the opportunity for another family in need of affordable housing to qualify for our Home Program and learn the same financial tools that empowered Mario and Norma.”
Comal County Habitat for Humanity is now accepting applications from potential homebuyers in our community. Anyone interested in partnering with Comal County Habitat to build their home can pick up an application at their offices located at 1269 Industrial Drive, New Braunfels, TX 78130 any time between 9 AM and 5 PM Tuesday – Saturday. The deadline to fill out and return a homebuyer application is December 10th.
November 02, 2019
America Recycles Day is coming up on November 15th – although recycling remains an everyday opportunity to make the world a better place, the annual “Keep America Beautiful” trademark day serves as a friendly reminder to reduce, reuse, recycle and shop recycled products. No matter how you choose to celebrate this America Recycles Day, consider local nonprofits when recycling or purchasing things like home good items, furniture, building supplies and more. Read on for five ways to celebrate America Recycles Day with the ReStore.
1. Don’t dump, donate!
- Comal County Habitat for Humanity ReStore accepts donations of new and gently-used home good items, furniture, building materials and more. Funds raised from sales in the ReStore contribute to the overall cost of building Habitat for Humanity homes in Comal County. Since its inception, ReStores across the nation have saved over 13,000,000 pounds of usable construction materials and 200 tons of furniture, appliances and home good items from landfills. Comal County ReStore’s donation center is open 6 days a week and even offers a pick-up service for large or bulky donations. Call us to schedule a donation pick-up at (830) 625-4025 or fill out our donation form online at www.comalhabitat.org/restore/donate.
2. Shop recycled items.
- New and gently-used donated items are sold to the public at a fraction of the retail cost, saving customers up to 75% off the item’s original value. That means you can save BIG on all of your home improvement needs – from furniture to home décor, building supplies and more. Shopping recycled and donated items gives that item a second life, saves you money and has a positive impact on our environment.
3. From donation to DIY
- Repurposing/reusing an item to be functional piece of your home is a great way to reduce the amount of items in our landfills. For fun ReStore DIY inspiration and tips, check out this article from Habitat for Humanity International: https://www.habitat.org/stories/tips-for-finding-your-next-diy-upcycle-project-at-habitat-restore
- Volunteers are the backbone and heart of Comal County Habitat for Humanity and the ReStore. Spend a few hours with us processing donated items in our Donation Center or help sell donated items in the ReStore. No skills or experience are necessary to volunteer with us – we’ll provide training and the tools you need to have a great experience. To sign up to volunteer, visit https://comalhabitat.volunteerhub.com/?format=List&filter=15400.
5. Spread the word.
- As America Recycles Day approaches, help raise awareness about the ReStore by sharing our posts on social media or talking to your friends, neighbors and co-workers about our mission. Together, we can make a positive difference on the environment and in the lives of families in our community.
The ReStore funds the mission of Comal County Habitat for Humanity by selling new and gently-used home good items directly to the public. Funds raised from the ReStore go toward building Habitat homes in our community, as well as cover many administrational and operational expenses for Comal County Habitat. This provides donors the opportunity for their donation to go directly to the building of safe, decent and affordable homes.
To learn more about America Recycles Day, visit americarecyclesday.org.
November 01, 2019
Pictured above: Stephenie and her son, Nicholas, are presented their "key" by Habitat Home Sponsors Tim Pate and Kathy Mulholland.
On Monday, October 7th, our community gathered around Habitat homeowner Stephenie and her son Nicholas to welcome them to their newly finished home in celebration of World Habitat Day. The evening began with Comal County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Crystal Moore explaining the significance of World Habitat Day.
“More than 30 years ago, the United Nations general assembly took an important step in promoting the idea that everyone deserves a decent place to live by declaring the first Monday of October to be World Habitat Day. Today is World Habitat Day,” Moore said.
“Families all across the United States are paying too high a price for the cost of their home. Rent and homeownership costs are skyrocketing while wages are not keeping pace. Far too often, families struggle to make ends meet. Everywhere you look – cities, suburbs, rural areas, and right here in Comal County, the stability that home should bring remains out of reach for too many families,” Moore added.
“Habitat is committed to mobilizing our partners, volunteers and community members across our county to find the solutions and help create the policies that will allow our families and our community to meet their needs,” Moore added. “Comal County Habitat for Humanity asks everyone to join together as one global network in communicating the message that every one of us deserves the opportunity for a better future, and that a decent place to live can remove boundaries and barriers to opportunities, health and success that might have been a part of a family’s life for years, and in most cases, generations.”
Following Moore’s explanation of World Habitat Day, major home sponsor Wells Fargo representative Holly Hayes addressed community members in attendance to explain the dedication.
“The dedication ceremony gives Habitat a chance to thank the many people from our community who help make the construction of each new home a success,” said Hayes. “Donors, volunteers, board members, committee members, staff and our local community all work together to help carry out the mission of Habitat for Humanity – building affordable and decent housing. Most importantly, the ceremony is a celebration of the hard work and determination of this deserving family who is realizing the dream of homeownership.”
Communications Manager Alan Rubiola took a moment to recognize some of the members of our community that helped build Stephenie’s home.
“All of our sponsors are different in what they do and who they are, but what they all share is that they all believe that everyone deserves a decent place to live,” Rubiola said.
“I wanted to take a moment to thank our major sponsors: Tim Pate and Kathy Mulholland, The McKenna Foundation, Wells Fargo, Comal County Women Build, the Hot Rodders for Humanity crew and our Big Give donors. And to everyone who has donated towards Stephenie’s home… I would like to say thank you. We would not be able to build homes, communities and hope without your support,” Rubiola added.
The evening came to a close with an emotional speech from Habitat homeowner Stephenie.
“Everyone here has been a part of our journey with Habitat for Humanity in one way or another, so you all know that my biggest prayer is to have a home. 17 years ago when God blessed my life with Nicholas, I knew I had to do whatever it took to be the best mother he deserved. I always had to paddle extra hard to stay above water and it’s been a long road and a lot of hard work. It was 2 years ago when we got accepted into (Comal County Habitat for Humanity’s program). And I feel for the first time in my life that all of my hard work has paid off. Today I can say that God has answered our prayers. In the beginning of our journey, Habitat asked me what my definition of “home” is, and I said to flourish – (defined as) ‘a person to grow in a healthy way as a result of a particular environment.’ And in this home, Nicholas and I will flourish,” Stephenie said.
“I don’t think I have ever worked so hard in one summer, but we made it. In our new home, there will be rest. I couldn’t be more thankful and ready for this new chapter in our lives,” said Stephenie.
Comal County Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to build safe, decent and affordable homes in partnership with deserving, low-income families. With the help of the community, these future homeowners build their own Habitat homes and upon completion, buy the home from Comal County Habitat for Humanity at a low-cost, long term affordable mortgage. If you or anyone you know is interested in partnering with Comal County Habitat to purchase a home, please visit www.comalhabitat.org/homeownership or call (830) 625-4025 for more information.