Karen Redding describes her Habitat Homeownership as “an amazing dream come true.”

A single mom with two kids – Arabella then 9 and Andrew 15 – she was working full time, and living in a 700 s.f. two-bedroom cottage. Each child had a bedroom and she slept in the living room. The cottage had mold issues, which her son scrubbed down regularly with bleach. Because of this, the kids didn’t feel like they could invite friends over. Redding dreamed of going back to school and getting a Dental Assistant credential so she could earn more money than she was as a receptionist to afford a larger house.

That was nine years ago. Then, a church friend told her very firmly “You need to go” to an informational meeting about qualifying with Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County for one of four houses to be built in Sebastopol.

“I went to the meeting,” Redding said, “but it was a big room and it was crowded…people from all over West County and outside the county who needed housing. I didn’t think I could compete. There were a lot of people worse off than me.”

Nevertheless, she filled out the paperwork. She also kept pursuing her goals and started back to school.

“I didn’t think I’d get the house… and I knew I needed to improve our situation,” Redding said. “I didn’t want to count on the house; I had to keep moving myself forward.”

After an entire year, going from one phone call to another that told her she had been approved to move to the next step in the qualifying process, she and her family were asked to attend a meeting where they were met with balloons and photographers. They had been selected to be one of the four families.

She and then 17-year-old Andrew worked on the house every single Saturday from 7:30-2:00, the only day that fit into her schedule with full time work and Andrew’s school. At the same time, Karen was working hard to earn her Dental Assisting credential at SRJC, and eventually passed the state licensing exam.

“Everyone at Habitat was so great,” Redding said. “Whatever we were doing that day, they patiently and respectfully taught us how to do it.” It was a long process and a lot of sweat-equity hours, but eventually it was done. She’s been in the three-bedroom house six years in October.

Arabella, now 18 and looking forward to her first semester at SRJC, remembers getting the keys to their new home. “We slept in the house that night…before we even moved anything in! Everything smelled so new. We slept on the floor but we didn’t care – it was finally ours!”

Andrew, who helped build their house, has never actually lived in it. Like his mom, he kept working on his goals. He did well enough at Technology High School to earn scholarships at Rochester Institute of Technology, leaving for college just as his mom and sister were moving into the house. Now 24 and an Environmental Engineer with Lockheed Martin in Palmdale, California, he comes home to visit on weekends as often as he can.

Arabella is looking forward to studying Kinesiology and going into Sports Physical Therapy at Baylor University in Texas. She has learned a lot as well from the Habitat process. “I realize that anything is possible, but you have to work for it,” Arabella said. She wants to earn enough as an adult to give back to Habitat for all it did for her family.

Redding herself still feels “so blessed!….I never thought I could own my own home, especially in this county…I am very thankful.”