When you first meet Habitat homebuyer, Lisa, you will be enchanted by her sunny disposition, upbeat attitude, and authentic, heartwarming smile. You would never guess the struggles she’s faced.
You see, in 1994, when her daughter Rachel was just 2 years old, Lisa was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At around the same time, her unhappy marriage to Rachel’s father ended. “If it hadn’t been for my mom and dad, I don’t know what we would have done,” says Lisa. “They took care of Rachel and took time off work to sit by my bedside.” Over the next few years, Lisa received treatment for her cancer. She went into remission and relapsed twice before finally beating the disease. Lisa has now been cancer-free for more than 25 years.
Once healthy, Lisa went back to college and earned her teaching degree, graduating at the top of her class. “Teaching had always been my dream job,” shared Lisa. “I felt so blessed to finally fulfill that dream.” Unfortunately, after just five years, Lisa became disabled and had to quit teaching.
Then, in 2002, ten-year-old Rachel was diagnosed with Autism. “The diagnoses was sort of a relief,” shares Lisa. “For years I’d been telling her doctors and teachers that something was going on with Rachel — she had challenges other kids didn’t. She didn’t meet the expected development milestones.” Once diagnosed, Rachel began receiving the services and support she needed. “She still has challenges, but now she has the tools she needs to thrive.”
In February 2021, after applying three times, Lisa and Rachel were accepted into the Habitat Homebuyer program. “We’re excited that we will finally have a home of our own,” Lisa says. “Having enough room for us to each have our own space as well as shared space is going to make a huge difference for both of us.”
Currently, Lisa and Rachel live in separate, one-bedroom apartments in the same complex. Rachel, now 30, lives somewhat independently with the support of her mom and caregivers. “It certainly isn’t ideal,” says Lisa, “but, it was the only solution available to us. It’s given Rachel a chance to live independently, like other people her age. Now, she’s ready for us to live together.” Very soon, that will become a reality.
To accommodate Rachel’s needs and ensure that she has the whole Habitat Homebuyer Experience, two groundbreaking celebrations were held. The first, with just Rachel, Lisa, and a few close family and friends and a second with the other two homebuyer families whose homes will be built on the same lot. “Rachel can become overwhelmed,” shared Lisa. “It was very kind of Habitat to make this special accommodation for us.”
Because of her disability, Lisa is only able to complete her 250-hour sweat equity requirement in two-hour increments. Most Saturdays you can find her on the current home build site or in the Oak Harbor Habitat Store. “I’ve helped build three homes since being accepted,” shared Lisa. “I’m excited to finally start building my own.”
Construction on Lisa and Rachel’s home begins early next year. Lisa is excited to have her friends and family come out and help build her home. She says that, even after her own home is complete, she will continue to volunteer because, “the joy of helping build someone’s home is so exciting.”
When asked what having their own home will mean to them, how it will change their lives, Lisa always says the same thing, “I won’t have to worry about Rachel’s future anymore. I know she will have a safe, decent place to live for the rest of her life.” Because Rachel has reliable income through disability insurance, she will be a co-owner of the home, protecting her into the future.
Mom and daughter are both looking forward to inviting friends and family over “without feeling embarrassed about our home.” They’re happy they’ll have a washer and dryer and won’t have to lug their laundry over to Lisa’s parents’ house every week.
Rachel looks forward to being able to walk to her favorite stores, Island Thrift, Purple Moon and, of course, the Habitat Store!
Lisa and Rachel have overcome challenges that most people never face. Now, thanks to the support of our community, they are about to overcome a challenge that faces many Island County households — having a safe, affordable place to call home.
If you believe, as we do, that everyone deserves a decent, affordable place to call home, please consider making a gift today.