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Jose Martinez was laughing “I’ll show up tomorrow (at the dedication of his Habitat house) with big dark circles under my eyes,” because he expected to be too excited to sleep all night.

What was he most looking forward to? “Celebrating with all the volunteers with heart who made the magic. It’s magic, a miracle,” he said.

His wife, Maria, who speaks little English, is looking forward to a home of her own, something she didn’t think she’d ever have. “It’s a dream come true,” Jose translated.

Martinez, who works in inventory and quality control at Sonoma Tile, said he and Maria and their two daughters were living in a one-bedroom apartment when they learned about Habitat from a sister-in-law and in the news.

“We wanted a home of our own, but we knew we would need help of some kind. We were looking for a program,” Jose explained.

They applied even though Jose didn’t think they would get accepted from so many applicants. Once they were accepted, they had to qualify for the mortgage and the Habitat partnership.

It took a long time, but Jose said the Habitat staff made it easy. “They said they would be there with us every step of the way, and they were,” Jose said.

What didn’t make it easy was being burned out of their apartment last November. They lost almost everything except the clothes they were washing at the laundromat when the fire broke out. It started in the apartment next to theirs, but seriously damaged theirs as well.

Jose points to the couch which was just one of the pieces of furniture that came from Habitat’s Re-Store after the fire. “Staff was great; the volunteers were great. People gave us things to keep going,” Jose explained.

The building process went just as well, with helpful construction crews patiently coaching Jose and Maria in what to do as they put in their 300 hours. On weekends their daughters, Aidely, now 10, and Mariel, now 6, visited their future home and picked out bedrooms.

Mariel, a second grader at John Reed Elementary school, wrote a story for class about her new house and drew a picture of how her new house will look. Still excited Mariel announced “…and we’re going to get a pet dog!” Her mother interrupted her gently with a few words in Spanish. Aidely, a sixth grader at Technology Middle School, explained with a big grin that actually her mother thought they should start small, with a hamster, perhaps.

Everyone is looking forward to an outdoor area. At the apartment they found after the fire, there is no outdoors area for the family. Maria is looking forward to a garden with lots of flowers and vegetables. The girls are looking forward to having outdoor space to relax and play.

The whole family was able to attend the dedication. “We got permission for the girls to miss school for the day,” Jose explained, “so that they can help us celebrate with the volunteers. We are so happy they decided to use their time to help us.”