Not all homes are created equal.
In November 2012, The Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles teamed up with Delta Airlines to create a uniquely remarkable experience. More than 500 Delta Airlines employees helped to rebuild a dilapidated house in a period of 6 weeks by raising the funds through the area’s recycled bottles and cans system.
The result: A newly revamped home for single mother, Irma Ulloa and her daughter, Vanessa, built especially for them.
How did it all happen?
A New Home
Well, it’s not every day that a new neighbor has an entire suburban North Long Beach block shut down as they receive their new house keys in front of a crowd of about 50 people, and that’s exactly how it went down for the ladies.
The quaint three-bedroom house on Lemon Avenue near South Street where Irma and Vanessa received their keys at the dedication ceremony was the second built in Long Beach by Delta’s volunteers under a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles. The faith-based non-profit has had a presence in L.A. County since 1990 and seeks to provide needy families with an avenue for homebuying.
“Sixteen years ago, things got tough and we were fortunate enough to have family take us in,” said Irma, a longtime dental assistant, at the street side dedication. “But it’s not easy living under someone else’s roof. We wanted to be independent and we are grateful to everyone who helped us be able to afford this house. It’s more than a house — it’s a home. And it’s more than I could have imagined.”
Habitat for Humanity advocate and 8th District Councilmember Al Austin — as well as representatives from Delta and Habitat for Humanity — were on hand to welcome the Ulloa’s to Long Beach. The women proudly cut the ribbon of their new rehabilitated house, which one neighbor in attendance described as “an abandoned former eyesore with a front yard full of tall weeds and a rotting garage that had been inhabited by squatters.”
These days, however, that eyesore is now their beloved home with a castle-like front door and hardwood floors throughout. The two-car garage was entirely rebuilt and the backyard neatly landscaped, to be used for a vegetable garden.
At the time, Vanessa, 23, said that she and her mother chose the Long Beach home over others offered to them in Lynwood and South Gate because they knew that any work done on it would be an improvement. She also appreciated the easy access to public transit (Irma’s work at USC is a straight shot up the Blue Line) and the quiet, tree-lined street reminded her of the home on Los Angeles’ Westside they left behind for the new one.
“This was the house in the worst shape of all, but I knew I wanted to be here,” said Vanessa, a photography student who attended Santa Monica Community College. “When we drove down this street, it instantly reminded me of Santa Monica and Venice. I felt comfortable.”
After living in cramped quarters with other family members for nearly two decades, Irma had all but given up on living independently with her young daughter. But thanks to Habitat’s “hand-up not hand out” setup for providing affordable housing — which requires homebuyers to invest 200 to 500 hours of “sweat equity” into the home—the Ulloa ladies were able to make an investment in their future more important than money.
The mother and daughter team are one of nearly 800 families that Habitat for Humanity of Los Angeles has moved into renovated or new homes and one of six that was prepared for dedication in late 2012. More than 250 more homes in cities across the county, including Long Beach, were planned over the next 3 years.
We were happy that we were able to be at the dedication ceremony and snap these photos of the happy mother and daughter being presented with the keys to the home, as well as many more happy moments that day.
It is true, a house is not a home until you make it yours, and these ladies did just that.