New home a hard-earned gift for Aurora family
"Some gifts aren't given," reads a billboard in Chicago featuring an image of Bulls legend Michael Jordan.
The same could be said about an early Christmas gift an Aurora mother and daughter received Saturday.
Enid Vargas and her 13-year-old daughter, Wilenid, became the smiling, excited and appreciative recipients of Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity's 49th home, a two-story townhouse on the 200 block of Linn Drive in North Aurora.
But the gift of a home wasn't necessarily given to the Vargas family, because the duo put hours of work into a three-month rehab effort that transformed the space from a neglected dwelling formerly occupied by a hoarder to a modern living area with sparking hardwood floors.
"Surely this house is making a difference in this community," Jeff Barrett, executive director of Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity, said during Saturday's dedication ceremony in front of Habitat volunteers, employees and past home recipients.
Celebrating their North Aurora home, which comes with a mortgage Vargas will work to pay back, the family said they plan to move in next week.
"This is a blessing for me," said Vargas, who has been in the U.S. with her daughter for five years since moving from Puerto Rico.
Vargas said she and her daughter, an eighth-grader at Jefferson Middle School in West Aurora District 129, helped paint, garden, insulate and clean the home while dozens of volunteers gave up their Thursdays and Saturdays to work on it.
A group of young adults from First Hmong Alliance Church in Aurora lead the volunteer charge, spending Saturday after Saturday rehabbing the home and seeing the way the space would positively affect its new owners, said volunteer and church member Noch Lao.
Hardwood floors in the living room at the front of the townhouse looked beyond repair when Habitat first took over the home from the village of North Aurora, Barrett said. The wood gave off odors and was fraught with uneven floorboards, but it was salvaged with a lot of sanding and hard work.
Helping fix up her own new home has inspired Wilenid to continue volunteering with Habitat, she said.
"I'm really thankful for everything," she said Saturday as she served cookies to dedication ceremony guests including a woman set to receive a Habitat home next month. "I want to thank them by helping them build their own house."
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