The Blockhan Family Story
When Joel Blockhan and his three children look back at life with their wife and mother, Susie, they remember her positive attitude in the face of terminal cancer, her engaging smile and her pride in the home of their own built by Habitat for Humanity.
“Susie and I were overjoyed beyond words and belief about our acceptance into Habitat for Humanity,” recalls Joel. “She wanted to have a place where we didn’t have to worry about having to move (because of rent increases), a place where we could build up equity for the future.”
The Blockhans’ two-story townhouse in Redmond is filled to the brim with remembrances of Susie, who passed away in 2015 after living with breast cancer for 10 years. The kids have their own happy memories, too.
“When she had cancer and she had to stay in bed a lot, I remember every day after I came home from school, I would hop in the bed with her and tell her all about my day,” says middle-child Jacob.
“She always had a smile on her face. It was hard to tell that she had cancer because she was still so upbeat and happy and persevered,” youngest child Sam chimes in.
“It was my birthday when we found out we were getting the Habitat house, so I was really happy,” says daughter Mary, whose fondest memory of her mother is her optimism. “I think I kind of noticed how stressful and hard it had been for Mom and Dad, so I was happy that they could not be worried about something anymore. And it honestly seemed like the best gift ever at that moment.”
After struggling for years to pay bills and set aside even a few dollars into savings, Joel and Susie weren’t sure they’d ever become homeowners. Even though Joel had a good job at Boeing and Susie had worked in banking before the kids were born, it seemed that they could never move beyond living paycheck to paycheck.
Habitat for Humanity gave them an achievable goal. With their sights set on saving up an affordable down payment for a mortgage that fit well within their family budget, they devoted 250 hours of sweat equity into helping build their new home. They appreciate the support from Habitat donors, volunteers, and corporate and government partners who made Susie’s dreams come true before she passed away.
“It just makes me happy to know that somebody was providing money for us and that we could rebuild our lives and be able to give back to other people in our community,” Mary states.
Penelope’s favorite part of the process was building together. “It was really cool… being with the AmeriCorps and all the volunteers, the people that were specifically helping me that I brought, and people but I didn’t know before. That’s the style of habitat, I think. Just the community.” She was especially moved by the volunteers who came out to help, sometimes in awful weather. “I wanted, desperately, to finish my hours as soon as possible. It was really bad weather, bad, bad in the winter. Rain, and cold, and the wind, it was amazing that people volunteered! I was there because I needed the house, but volunteers? In pouring [rain], cold, I mean really, it was horrible. For them to show up, it was amazing, to see the goodwill of others.”
“It is so peaceful. A house is something that’s with you for the rest of your life and that’s huge… it’s really something. When you help in any other area, you’re helping a lot, but it won’t last as much. But if you help Habitat, and you help others to own a home, you’re helping them without even being there!”
The Varner Family Story
Veteran Maclovia Varner had all but given up hope for
a home of her own, then you and Habitat for Humanity made her dream a reality.
The Varner family’s monthly budget was so tight that they’d shiver through the winter in their Renton apart- ment to avoid costly spikes in the utility bill. Single mom Maclovia dreaded every inevitable yearly increase in the rent she paid for the small two-bedroom unit where she lived with her two kids.
A home of their own seemed out of reach, an impossible dream to nd a place where Maclovia and daughter Danielle didn’t have to share a bedroom and where ever-rising rents wouldn’t even- tually force them to move.
Then, Habitat for Humanity made the impossible a reality.
A U.S. Army veteran who served her country for nearly 10 years, Maclovia learned about Habitat’s Veterans Community in Paci c. Six months after she took a leap of faith, crossed her ngers and sent in her application, she received the happy news that she, 8-year-old Danielle and 17-year-old Cameran would soon have a permanent, a ordable home. While Cameran babysat, Maclovia put in 250 hours of sweat equity working on her new home along with construction and repair proj- ects for other Habitat homeowners.
“In addition to the sweat equity, I had to scrape together a down payment — an a ordable one, yes, but still more than I had ever saved before,” recalls Maclovia, who has a degree in business administration and works for the Federal Aviation Administration. “My rent had just gone up an- other $300 dollars, so it wasn’t easy. I cut back on groceries and pinched pennies wherever I could to save up. And I did it!”
In February 2018, the threesome moved into their spacious new house in a nine-home community of veterans. “My mortgage payment ts well within our family budget, with room for those occa- sional pizza and movie outings that we were never able to a ord before. I’m actually setting mon- ey aside now to help the kids with college and to plan for my retirement,” Maclovia says.
A month after the Varners moved into their home, Maclovia stood before 800 donors, corporate partners, Habitat volunteers and sta to express her gratitude. “Without your support, Habitat would never be able to make the dream of homeownership come true for people like me,” she declared. “I feel like you believed in me, and that helped during those long sweat equity hours and the struggle to raise the down payment”.
It warms my heart today.
“You’ll never know just how much your support means to me and my kids. So, I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for this beautiful new life you’ve given us.”
Check out our blog for more stories on Habitat Homeowners
Before applying to Habitat, Iulia’s family was outgrowing their one bedroom apartment in Renton. In four years, the rent had almost doubled and the neighborhood’s crime rate had increased. Iulia halfheartedly checked out apartments that were closer to her job or to better schools for the kids, but they were all far out of her price range. Buying a home was “completely unattainable” There was no backup plan—Iulia is scared to even think about what would have happened if Habitat had not stepped in.
A family friend was going through the process of becoming a Habitat homeowner. While they were working on their sweat equity, Iulia would take care of their children. Watching a family from a similar background and living in similar conditions moving forward into a better situation inspired Iulia to apply as well. “Watching them throughout the process, I was determined… I’d give it a try at least. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Eventually, Iulia was able to apply to Habitat. “I did all the paperwork, it was not a big deal—the sections were pretty clearly written the list of documents you’re supposed to provide—it wasn’t complicated. We went ahead and submitted the package, then we just forgot about it. And then we received the phone call, because winners get notified by a phone call. I was screaming! …I couldn’t believe it.”
“We had orientation, then we started classes. We met other families which were also selected in the same month. I remember being on site with those families and we’re still neighbors. We know each other, our kids have grown up together. And I do appreciate that experience, quite a lot actually. I know a lot of neighborhoods, they don’t have that luxury. People sometimes don’t even know each other, they don’t even say hi to each other. We are together; we are truly together. We do talk, we raise kids together, and that is unique.”
The parts she enjoyed the most were her interactions with the construction crew: “Oh, I love Doug and Kristina! They are so positive and they know what they’re doing. And all the AmeriCorps—younger kids with hopes and ambitions. That’s so wonderful to be around people like that. And the volunteers too, you know, because we don’t see it in regular life. We never see people like that who are trying to trying to do something else for you and your neighbor. I appreciate it. That’s the best. The people there.”
“I had an infant, an elementary school student, work, AND sweat equity. It was just overwhelming. Habitat makes it very easy, very easy, but just by the nature of other demands, family demands, work demands, anything else can feel like the last straw to break the camel’s back. Seriously. It was very overwhelming. I was just tired all the time, my health declined, I just took it very hard. So I remember, someone who’d already moved into their house, they were like, “You know what, it looks clean after the dedication. It looks shiny and new and sparkly and all that, up until you bring in your furniture! Take a day and wash it. Just wash everything.” And that’s what I did, I took that advice. I took a day off right before we moved in. I came in that house, all by myself, with buckets and cleaning supplies. And I sat there, and I cried because I think that was a very powerful moment for me. At the dedication, there’s all these people around you, and it was wonderful, no question, but you kind of hold it together, right? But when it’s just you, and that house… It was big. So, I still remember it was a kind of a joyful day for me. It was me and all those buckets, and I would just wash all the walls and the carpets. I’d never enjoyed cleaning that much it my life… It was mine. I love it still. It’s a unique feeling. That was a day I shall really remember. “
“I do recognize that it’s the hard work of many, many people, and this house wouldn’t be possible without it. It’s amazing. It’s donations, it’s the work of AmeriCorps and staff, and volunteers of course. Many, many hands put this together.”
Hortensia & Jorge's Family
Before moving to the U.S., Hortensia and Jorge did a lot of research. They were looking for a place that would be safe for their sons, where they could receive a good public education, and where they could find work opportunities. They left Mexico and moved in with Hortensia’s brother in Bellevue for the first few months. After a few months, the family moved into a small, two bedroom apartment that had issues with mold and lead paint.
One of Hortensia’s friends from church was a Habitat homeowner and encouraged the family to apply. “We didn’t know anything about Habitat for Humanity. We’ve never heard of that. And it changed our life!”
It was very difficult for Hortensia; she had to work through the language barrier, and without a car. And even though Hortensia barely spoke English, she did all the paperwork. “That’s what I remember, it was a lot of paperwork. So we went through the process, interviews, and we finally received in the mail the letter, and the phone call that we have been accepted. It was beautiful, it was incredible.”
Hortensia has health problems that make it hard for her to stand up for a long time, so she did most of her sweat equity in the office. After all her practice filling out paperwork in English, one of her tasks was to translate materials into Spanish. On weekends she would work with her husband, her brother, their Family Support Partner, and a few other friends to do sweat equity hours on site.
“So, at the church, we learned about Habitat and we decided to make the big decision to apply, and we were blessed because we were accepted. And they gave us the house with four bedrooms; each one of my kids has his own bedroom. They looked so happy! At this point I’d totally forgotten what my son told me: “You promised we’d have a home.” But he still holds it in his heart, because then when he got accepted to the University—he’s a senior right now, he’s going to graduate—he wrote his college essay, and he talked about Habitat. About how his mom and dad, we made that promise to give him a home, a house, and I never thought that he’d remember that. And he said, “oh yeah, I do remember. You kept your promise.”
“I don’t have the words to thank Habitat… I don’t know if they really know, the impact they had on people’s lives. I always say, if you have a happy family, you have a happy society. This is something that they are doing so well, because I can see it; I can see it quick. I don’t need to wait 10 or 20 years to see it. I saw, right away, the change in my community and the change in my family. It’s a much better place. And they started that.”
Jahna and her children lived in a small two bedroom apartment in Kirkland. “I had a friend, a family friend, they were Habitat homeowners and so they talked me into applying because they knew that I would benefit from it. They were my advocates through the process, too.”
Jahna came out on site almost every Saturday. She finished her hours around the time that she started construction on her own house. Her favorite part of the process was being out on the jobsite, working with the volunteers and helping build her house. “Hammering nails. Being part of the process. And you know, things are a lot different now. Back when we were building, everything wasn’t fenced off. And it was… [getting choked up] I would actually bring my kids, one day a week, and we would come have dinner. Sorry, I’m getting emotional! We would go get dinner, and we’d bring it back, and we’d sit in the house and eat dinner. One day a week, it was very cool. It was very cool.”
“I’ve really changed my outlook on giving and being a part of my community. I’ve really worked hard to put myself in a position where I could be submersed in my community and be at my kids’ school, and volunteer and give back.”
“Just the fact that it’s mine, that’s huge. It’s absolutely huge. But my absolute favorite spot in my house is my little side yard. It’s my little piece of heaven. It’s a little tranquil piece of serenity… I’ve got some bamboo planted, I’ve got some lights that hang, and a nice little patio area. It’s just very relaxing to sit out there, and when I sit out there I can watch the sunset. I’ve got a great view of the sunset.”
Anette and her two children shared the bedroom in a small, one bedroom basement apartment, and her sister slept in the living room. “We called it ‘the hole’ because it was so dark. But we had some very, super awesome memories there. We made it work… [Marciana] wasn’t even in kindergarten and [Luis] was in kindergarten. So I was having to deal with childcare, childcare subsidies, and having to work at a kind of low-paying job… It was damp, dark, and very tight, you know. But it was full of love. We don’t look back on that time and think, ‘oh, that’s when we were poor and hopeless.’ You know, it wasn’t. We have a lot of memories and we celebrated a lot of wonderful times being in that room.”
She started researching the process, filled out an app, went to the meeting, and got chosen! “They only had a certain amount of homes and there were hundreds of people there, literally, you know. And I just… I knew I was gonna get a home! We did a lot of praying. A lot. A lot of praying and we just knew that we were gonna be the ones. And we were! It was pretty amazing.”
She worked on her own house and her neighbor’s homes, which absolutely made her feel more connected. “The volunteers that came out on their Saturdays, when it was raining, and I just looked at them, and I thanked them. And I was like, I couldn’t believe that they wanted to do this. It was so emotional for me that they, all they wanted to do was meet the homeowner. They wanted to meet the homeowner. And hear our stories and to think that, we could all get together and do this. You know? On donated stuff and volunteer labor, I mean, it was amazing to watch what many hands could do in love. And the people that came out in all that weather, I was so filled.” Annette was described as an “overachiever” during the building process. She completed close to a thousand hours, and even after she received her home, she continued to volunteer with Habitat, building homes in Othello Park, White Center, and Rainier Vista.
Annette has been a Habitat homeowner since September 2004. “Being a homeowner, it means I can provide a base, or a launching pad for myself and my family. Being a homeowner gives us security and structure. And them, knowing that they’ll always have someplace to come back to… they can go out there and find their place in the world, but there’s no place like home.”
Jerri struggled to find a permanent, safe place for her family. “I was trying to support everybody on 600-700 dollars per month. Plus utilities and everything—it was impossible. I had four kids, and [I was] working, and nobody wanted to rent to a single person with kids. With Terry being disabled, that was even harder because we couldn’t get a second floor apartment. It had to be accessible to her, and that was impossible.” When Jerri was able find a place, the conditions would be terrible. In their last home, the roof caving in, the floor was falling out, it was “not a good situation.” Jerri and her family were homeless, off and on, for a number of years.
Jerri found out about Habitat online. “I thought I would give it a shot. I thought, all they can say is no, I might as well try it. I was in tears when I found out.” Jerri did not have a backup plan. She believes there was no chance of her finding an affordable home that could accommodate her family. Had she not been accepted to Habitat, “I’d probably still be in the place I was at, or I’d be homeless right now.”
Her favorite part of working with Habitat was helping build the home. “I enjoyed it, which gave me the skills to do the upkeep and stuff now. I’m still learning every day. Everyone was really nice.”
“My daughter and my granddaughter, they can’t believe I can do what I do. I redid my bathroom, now I’m doing my kitchen. And my brother totally thinks ‘You’re not supposed to be able to do that! You’re not supposed to know how to do that! You’re not supposed to own a power saw!’ because I’m a woman, and because I’m his sister. When he comes up, he just shakes his head, but I say ‘If you don’t do it, I’m going to!’”
“This is the first stability that I’ve had. It took me five years to figure out that it’s mine, mentally. It’s a nice feeling, it was overwhelming. Without getting this house my granddaughter wouldn’t have been able to stay with me, I wouldn’t have been able to care for her.”