Last modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — After working two jobs, raising four kids and putting in 250 hours of labor over the last 21 months, Kimberly Antequera finally got what she’d been striving so hard for — the keys to her first home.

With the aid of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, Antequera is the latest city resident to join the ranks of homeowners.

Antequera held back tears when she was handed a set of keys for the house that’s still so new, the smell of fresh varnish hangs in the air.

A dedication ceremony at the family’s new four-bedroom home on Garfield Avenue in Florence was held Sunday afternoon, attended by about 50 people, including family and friends, representatives from Habitat for Humanity and volunteers who helped construct the house.

Antequera said the most exciting part for her isn’t the house itself, but what she’s going to be able to do with it.

“When I die, I can leave this for my kids,” she said. “I have something for them when I’m gone.”

Those kids, Jaylene, 17, Joshua, 14, Jianna, 8 and Jonathan, 6, are excited to move out of Meadowbrook Apartments, where all but the oldest have been living their entire lives, Antequera said.

“You get tired of being in the same spot,” she said, noting that she’s lived in that apartment complex with her children for about 15 years.

Jonathan spent part of the afternoon before the dedication ceremony showing off the upstairs rooms to his cousin and said he was excited to have a bigger room to share with his older brother.

“We’re moving in tomorrow,” he said.

Antequera said she, too, appreciates the extra room the family will have, including fiance Alex Gonzalez, who moved in with the family at their Meadowbrook apartment about 18 months ago, she said.

Antequera’s house is the fourth Habitat house to be completed on Garfield Avenue. The fifth is under construction next door.

Katie Wolcott, who attended Sunday’s dedication, will be moving in to that new home with her family when it’s finished, sometime before the end of the year, she said.

Antequera’s home is the 34th home built in the area over the last 25 years, according to Amy Landry, Habitat’s resource development director.

Another two-home development is underway on East Street in Easthampton, Landry said.

Each applicant is required to participate in the house’s construction and must log in 250 hours of labor to qualify.

Antequera said she cut wood, used saws, hung drywall, nailed wood trim and painted as part of her hours — all things she’d never done before, she said.

In addition to helping the other workers and volunteers, the labor helped give her a real sense of ownership of the house, she said.

“I can look at a wall and say, ‘I know what’s behind there,’” she said. “When we first put up the first walls, family and friends signed the beams, so I know there are signatures under there.”

“It feels complete,” Antequera said.

Besides her and her family, a group of about 300 volunteers from 50 different organizations helped construct the 1,480-square-foot house after the foundation slab was poured in the fall of 2012.

“Without them, without everybody who helped, I would never be able to do it,” she said.

Some of those volunteers were students from Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School.

Carpentry teacher Chadd Meerbergen said the opportunity to work on the construction of a home from the ground up gives the students experience they wouldn’t be able to get any other way.

“Without Habitat, that experience would be a lot smaller for our students,” he said.

Megan McDonough, executive director of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, said there is a wealth of support in the community for projects like these homes.

She said municipal bodies such as the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Department of Public Works, as well as volunteers who lend their time or donate money, all have a hand in getting these homes built.

McDonough said Habitat homeowners are sold the house with a zero-interest mortgage and are responsible for keeping up on the payments.

“What we do here at Habitat is, we try and build a house on the most affordable budget that we can, and then we sell the house at cost to the homeowner,” she said. “We’re providing a hand-up and not a handout.”

The home’s sale price is $122,871, according to McDonough.

“I’m happy that everybody was able to come together and just know that everybody had their own piece in it,” Antequera said.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.


 


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