By B.C. Manion
Saturday, May 12, was a festive and emotional day at 39307 Coit Road in Dade City.
Jessica Avalos and her daughters marked a milestone, along with Habitat for Humanity of East & Central Pasco County. At a special ceremony, Avalos received the keys to the home that she and her girls, Layla Brandt and Shaelyn Moats, helped to build. And Habitat celebrated the completion of its 100th home since it began building homes in 1994.
Cars and trucks lined the street for the housewarming party, which was festive, with balloons, banners, hot dogs, chips, popcorn, snow cones and plenty of folks on hand who helped with construction of the three-bedroom bungalow.
Avalos was brought to tears, as she accepted the keys for her new home.
Now, instead of sharing a bedroom with her two girls at her grandmother’s home, she and her daughters will each have a room of their own.
Avalos wasn’t the only one whose eyes welled up.
“I’m just so happy for her,” said Crystina Avalos, after touring her daughter’s house. “I’m overwhelmed.
“Every kid deserves a lift up. I’m on disability. I just don’t have the means to help my children, and they’ve been working so hard to help themselves.”
Marijane Graham, Avalos’ grandmother, said she had no words to express her gratitude.
“It is beyond belief. I just can’t believe it,” Graham said.
She also said her great-granddaughter, Shaelyn, used to slip out of bed at night to sleep with her. Now, she said, her great-granddaughter told her: “Gramma Nanny, now you can come sleep with me.”
Avalos was not surprised about the home. After all, she and her daughters contributed more than 800 hours of sweat equity toward building the frame home, which sports a concrete front porch with brick columns and wooden pillars.
The 29-year-old, however, had no idea it would be furnished.
Contributors chipped in to buy furniture from the Dade City ReStore, 15029 US 301, where Avalos is an assistant manager, having worked her way up from cashier.
Avalos had seen the living room set at the store and knew that it had gone out. But she had no inkling the set would find its way to her new living room.
Donors also furnished the three bedrooms, stocked the bathroom and provided new and barely used items for the kitchen, including a coffee maker, an iron, a crockpot, pots and pans, dishes and storage containers.
Contributors even gave 5-year-old Shaelyn stuffed animals, which the girl snuggled immediately.
The celebration included symbolic gifts from both Habitat and East Pasco Quilters. A member of the quilting group told Avalos that the quilt represented her group’s desire that the family “sleep under a blanket of love.”
This kind of project takes many hands, said Stephanie Black, director of development and public relations for Habitat. More than 200 women participated in Women Build 2012, donating funds and helping to construct the home. There were other fundraisers, too, including the highly successful Men Bake event, to help cover costs.
Avalos expressed amazement at the generosity people have shown.
“You don’t think that anybody is going to be so nice,” she said. She’s especially happy to be able to provide a home for her girls.
“They’re going to be much happier,” she said.