Barbara Gotay’s face lights up when you ask her about homeownership.
“That was my biggest dream, to have a home,” she said. “Not for me, but for my kids. That’s the future for them.”
It’s a future that wouldn’t have been possible without Barbara’s local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, a charitable nonprofit that helps low-wage earners earn a piece of the American dream: a home of their own.
The path was a bumpy one for Barbara. Born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, she immigrated to the United States as a 22-year old young woman.
“At that time, I only had my oldest daughter, and I wanted to give her a better place and a better future,” Barbara said. “That’s why I moved to the United States.”
She lived in Rhode Island and Florida before settling in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2009. She wanted to drive school buses, but ended up working for the local mass-transit system instead.
A door opened
Barbara learned about Habitat through her job. She had applied for housing loans in the past. Her credit was excellent, but her income was never enough. Through Habitat, her application went right through.
“When they told me I was approved, I couldn’t believe it,” Barbara said. “I was yelling, screaming, and jumping around. It was really exciting.”
Volunteers for Habitat built a home for Barbara in Long Acres, a small residential community in southeast Raleigh. It was the first home completed in Habitat’s partnership with the City of Raleigh to create positive change in the area.
Barbara obtained an affordable 20-year mortgage through Habitat, in addition to financial training to help her budget for a home.
Before she could take ownership of the house, though, she had to put in “sweat equity” by helping with construction on other Habitat homes. She earned a reputation around the Habitat offices by finishing 75 hours of sweat equity in a record-breaking 15 days, even while working a split shift on her bus-driving route.
“When I finished driving, I would change my clothes, work on the house for four hours, and then go back to my shift,” she said.
A family affair
Barbara made sure that her two daughters — Amaryllis and Crystal — also played a role in the construction process. Because they were too young to help out with the more heavy-duty construction projects, the girls helped with painting.
“I wanted them to know how hard I work for them to have what they have now,” Barbara said. “I want them to be hard workers.”
Barbara and her family moved into her new 1,100 square foot home in September 2011. Today, Barbara beams with pride when talking about her home.
“I have something for my kids,” she said. “Every day, when I go to bed, I say, ‘Thank you, God, for letting me have this day so that I can keep working and can have a place safe for my kids.”