Every door is an opportunity. Your support builds stronger futures every day.

On a recent Saturday morning surrounded by banners and balloons, Habitat for Humanity of Catawba Valley Executive Director Mitzi Gellman approached the mic to deliver words she had been waiting months to finally share again: “Welcome back, and thank you for joining us.”

The small crowd gathered to celebrate the Groundbreaking of The Founder’s Build – the future home of the Vargas Family. Groundbreaking ceremonies are a Habitat tradition that mark the start of a new house and a new chapter in the life of a family.

Jose Vargas is a department manager at a local department store, Lydia Vargas runs the household, and Andy Vargas just started high school. Originally from New York, the Vargas family moved to Hickory 13 years ago.

“We did it to give him a better life, because New York is always non-stop. We hardly got to see our son together. So we decided to move somewhere a lot calmer. We never knew we’d end up such a nice place as Hickory,” Jose recalled.

At the time of the move, Andy was just one year old, and the young parents were sharing a one-bedroom apartment with Jose’s brother. “We were paying about $1,000 in rent, and this was back 13 years ago. I was the loading dock supervisor, so I was making good money. But it just wasn’t enough.”

It is that journey from a cramped one-bedroom apartment in New York to the start of a three-bedroom home of their own that makes this Groundbreaking Ceremony so special. “I made a promise to my family the last time we moved,” Jose explained, “that the next time we moved, we’d be moving into our own house. Lo and behold, it happens.”

“Things are different since the last time we did groundbreakings, the world is different. If your house has been like so many other homes, your house has transformed from the place where you sleep and eat and watch tv to your home office, your classroom, your medical center almost. We’ve asked our houses to do a lot,” explained Mitzi as she addressed the friends and neighbors assembled for the ceremony. “For me in particular, I’ve been so grateful that I have a house where I feel safe, and I’m so grateful that I have this opportunity to be here today. It makes me so happy to know that we are starting a house for the Vargas family.”

Hardworking families like the Vargas’ partner with Habitat Catawba Valley every day to build a safer, more secure future for their children. Yet, despite working countless hours and often-times multiple jobs, they are unable to close the gap between their wages and the rising cost of their rent. Your support provides families with an affordable pathway to homeownership – one where stability and self-reliance are actually obtainable, and not merely aspirational.

Summer is Habitat Catawba’s busiest building season, and construction is in full swing! Right now, we have 7 homes under way in our Cottages at Ridgeview neighborhood – including the future Vargas family home. However, the rising cost of construction materials is creating an unexpected financial burden that we don’t want to pass along to our partner families. That means, we have to raise an additional $40,000 per house – or $280,000 for the entire Cottages at Ridgeview neighborhood – to help close the gap. Your gift today will help cover the difference, and welcome home more families like the Vargas’.

“Hopefully after all this is said and done, we can still work with Habitat. Volunteer. Donate. Give some of our time. Help others get to this point. Because, man, it just feels so exciting – it’s just so exciting to have a home of our own,” smiled Jose.

Will you join Jose in paying it forward? Your gift will ensure more children like Andy have a stable start in a safe and secure home, and more families like the Vargas’ have the chance to build a better future.

“This house is just going to give us a better sense of security. My son knows we don’t have to move because the rent is going up, or because the building is no longer safe, or the neighborhood is no longer safe. It will give him more confidence to know he’s got somewhere that is ours. We’re not going to lose it.”
– Jose Vargas, Habitat Catawba Homeowner