If losing their home wasn’t tragic enough, around the same time Martha’s husband Jose was diagnosed with leukemia.
John Weyenberg, executive director of Greater Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity, recalls the events that transpired since then. “The city needed the house torn down so they suggested that the family sell the property to Habitat so we could complete the demolition and build a new home on the site. At that time we didn’t know that this family could potentially qualify for our program.”
There are three main factors Habitat uses to qualify families, explained John. “One is they have to be willing to work on their home and work on homes for other families in the program plus complete a whole series of education requirements — everything from budget counseling to home maintenance,” he said. “The second component of qualification is need. Given the Vera Mendoza’s situation and the hardships they were facing, they had a great need for affordable housing. The third factor is the ability to pay. The families have a mortgage on their home that is held by Habitat for Humanity.”
The Vera Mendoza family held fast to their faith over the last 24 months. “I prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe,” said Martha, pointing to the nearly life-sized statue of the Blessed Mother that is the focal point of their new living room. “I also prayed to Blessed Elias del Socorro Nieves and God, of course.”
Ultimately the family qualified to be a part of the Habitat program, said John. “Habitat still owned the lot so it worked out very well that we could match them up with the same property that they owned before. They really wanted to be back there — they loved the neighborhood and felt they fit in well with their neighbors. It was a neat situation how it all came together.”
Jose, Martha and Juan, who is a sophomore at Menasha High School, volunteered many hours for Habitat for Humanity.
“Because of all the sweat equity we got to see the family quite a bit and find out how hard-working they are,” said John. “I heard several comments from our senior volunteer leaders who said they didn’t know that they had ever worked with another person who worked as hard as Jose did at the Habitat work sites. No matter what was going on, he was lending a hand. Our volunteers were very impressed with his work ethic and his attitude on the work site — the same with Martha. They were also impressed with how kind and appreciative the family was of everyone’s efforts and ultimately just having the opportunity to be back in the same neighborhood they had loved for so many years.”
The new home is quite an improvement over their old one, added John. “The home they had was decent but it was an older home. Habitat has built a brand new home that is Energy Star and Green Built certified, which means they meet some pretty high efficiency and environmental standards. In terms of square footage the house size probably isn’t much different but there’s a lot of new features and the utility bills are significantly less than what they were paying.”
The Vera Mendoza family is feeling particularly blessed, not only for their new home but also because Jose’s cancer is in remission. Martha has words of encouragement for other families facing difficult circumstances. “Think of the good things in your life. Do not lose faith. Faith is what keeps you going.”