A new Habitat home for the holidays

Naples, FL, Dec. 23, 2015 –The baby turned two months old. Christmas was just two days away.

Miguel and Alyssa Pascual with baby Gabriel. (Submitted photo)

Miguel and Alyssa Pascual with baby Gabriel. (Submitted photo)

And Miguel and Alyssa Pascual were both taking a big step forward.

This week, the Pascuals, both 25-year-old Immokalee High graduates, became homeowners in the Faith Landing neighborhood in Immokalee. Two days before the holidays began, they were moving in to their Habitat for Humanity-built home and starting a new life in a safe, decent, affordable home.

“I just can’t believe it,” Alyssa said. She held her 2-month-month old infant, Gabriel, against her chest as she signed the home closing documents.

The Pascuals were just one of 20 families who this month became homeowners, finalizing the paperwork on their new home purchases before the holidays rolled in. Most of them, like the Pascuals, will be waking up in their new home on Christmas morning.

Habitat for Humanity of Collier County has built more than 1,800 homes in Naples and Immokalee since 1979. The push to get these new home buyers into their new homes took lots of teamwork. Team members and volunteers from construction, family services and development had to come together to make sure all of the money was raised, the homes were built, the buyers approved and closing documents ready to go.

“For so many of us, Christmas recalls memories of Home. It’s what we strive to provide for our own children. And when home is unhealthy, unsafe and insecure, it becomes a parent’s worst dream,” said Habitat Collier Vice President Lisa Lefkow. “Today we celebrate “the thrill of hope” that comes with each of these families being Home for the Holidays!’

With Habitat Collier swamped with applications – only 1 home can be built with the funds Habitat has for construction for every 15 applications that come in – affordable, safe housing is hard to come by in the Naples area. Habitat homeowners go through an intense process to be qualified, including background checks and financial checks. They put in 500 hours of sweat equity and go through an educational process that touches on everything from finances to minor home repair.

The Pascuals are moving out of a crowded house, where it’s hard to find a quiet place for the baby. They’re leaving behind the noise and cramped quarters for their own home for their family.

“I’ll have my own kitchen,’’ Alyssa said. I can put things in my home how I want them. I’ve dreamed about all of this.’’

Alyssa is a graduate of Florida A & M University with a degree in allied health and she’s hoping to return to being a substitute teacher for Collier schools in January. She worked there at the end of her pregnancy and can’t wait to get back to work. She hopes to pursue her graduate degree in occupational therapy next summer.

Miguel, who served in the military as a U.S. Marine and spent time in Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East, is a facilities supervisor at the Seminole Casino in Immokalee.

Miguel is excited about lawn work, even mowing the grass and working around the house. “I can take more pride in it,’’ he said. “It’s not just a chore. Now it’s a matter of pride.”

Alyssa is the decorator in the family and said after a shopping trip earlier in the week that she already knows where everything is going in the new house. “We’re moving from one room to a whole house,’’ she said.

Rugs for the kitchen, a paper towel holder and cutting boards were some of her first purchases.

“I can’t wait to get in the kitchen,’’ she said.

With her lifetime best friend living next door and cousins just across the street, they’ll have a support system nearby. But it’s also about more than that, Miguel said.

“It’s stability,’’ he said. “It’s about not having to worry about where we’re going to live from year to year.” To donate, volunteer or spread the word about Habitat Collier, visit www.habitatcollier.org or call 239-775-0036.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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