“I’ve lived on my own since the minute I was 19,” Sandra said.
She got married when she was 26, had four kids, a home, and a job at AnMed health, where she worked for 24 years as a surgical tech in labor and delivery. But in 2007, her dad was diagnosed with ALS, and she became his full-time caregiver until he died that October.
Since then, Sandra has struggled through several medical issues of her own, as well as a divorce, which left her with no home and no financial stability.
“I had nothing,” she said. And she couldn’t seem to get help anywhere she turned. She asked at every agency she could think of, but she didn’t seem to fit any of their requirements. At one agency, she was told she made $9 too much to qualify for help.
“I never knew there were cracks you could fall into and might never get out of,” Sandra said. But there was another part of her that didn’t want to rely on government assistance.
“If in any way possible I don’t need to use it, I want to feel like I’m doing it on my own,” she said.
At 50 years old, Sandra never imagined moving back in with her mother, but that’s what she did — for six years.
During that time, Sandra was working with a loan officer at a local bank to try to find a loan that was right for her. She wanted to be a homeowner again. But, again, nothing seemed to fit. Then the loan officer thought of Habitat. She got Sandra an application, and soon Sandra was approved for the affordable homeownership program.
But her struggles weren’t over. Sandra’s mom decided to sell her home and move to something smaller, so Sandra needed to find a place of her own.
“Mom sold the house, so I moved to a 1-bedroom apartment in a low-income complex,” Sandra said. “But it could have been so much worse.”
You should have seen some of the places she and her daughter looked at, Sandra said of her hunt for decent, affordable housing. “I just remember breaking down and crying,” she said. “Places that smelled so bad and had holes in the walls.”
So a Habitat home means a lot to Sandra.
“I just want a safe place not just for me but for my children and grandchildren,” she said. “I want them to be OK and they want me to be OK.”
Sandra’s face lights up when she talks about her family. She has four kids and six grandkids, ages 7 months to 17. She is a regular babysitter for the youngest ones, and her Habitat home will have enough room for them to stay the night.
When asked what she was most looking forward to in her new home, Sandra didn’t hesitate.
“Decorating for the holidays,” she said. “Having room for the family to come eat a meal together. A hub for my family.”
Sandra said she is truly grateful for Habitat.
“I really enjoy helping build the houses,” she said. “With all the medical issues I’ve had and where I’ve been, I just want to do what I can do and not give up on life.”
Sandra hopes her story of finding strength through struggles will inspire others.
“I would tell myself 100 times a day, no matter how bad it gets, don’t give up,” she said. “People can say it to you over and over, but you have to find it inside of you.”