SAN BENITO — Departing from the rays of the scorching summer day, Rosa Saenz shuffled under the shade of the front porch while holding her newly gifted gold house key.

Her husband Alfredo, her children Adrian and Grecia and several guests were eager to go inside the house.

After inserting the key into the home’s large white door, sounds of oohs and ahhs could be heard as Rosa began to push it open.

But it wasn’t the gush of cool air from the AC unit that brought smiles and cheers to the house’s first visitors.

They were happy to witness a new chapter in the life of a local family who was once in search of a place to call their own home.

Habitat for Humanity of the Rio Grande Valley held a home dedication ceremony earlier this week in San Benito for its new owners, the Saenz family.

Through Habitat for Humanity’s Housing Ownership Program, the Saenz family was able to become the nonprofit’s next set of low-income homebuyers.

Adrian, 22, said he and his family appreciate everyone and all of their hard work that “made their dream come true.”

“This home definitely has better conditions than the one we used to live in,” Adrian said. “I think this is going to be a good foundation for my family, and we’re looking forward to spending each day here.”

The Saenz home

According to Habitat for Humanity RGV Executive Director Wayne Lowry, each homeowner is given a choice of about five or six different floor plans based on the needs of the family.

“It’s going to be pretty standard stuff because our idea is to help families with a hand up and not a handout,” Lowry said. “So, they’re doing everything they can to better their life and better their situation and we’re there to help them through the finish line.”

The Saenz’s completed 300 hours of “sweat equity” toward their three-bedroom, two-bathroom home by completing tasks such as painting the house or working in Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in Harlingen.

They were also able to be involved with their home’s physical appearance and selected beige, white and brown colors for their walls and flooring.

Lending a helping hand

According to Lowry, construction for the Saenz’s home began in January with the help of Winter Texans through the Habitat for Humanity Care-A-Vanners program.

The house was built in partnership with The Little Green Book Foundation, a local nonprofit that donated $25,000 to help build the home.

“We’re really thankful for The Little Greenbook Foundation, which made the funding of this home possible,” Lowry said. “That, in addition to the TDHCA Bootstrap Loan Program, we are able to provide funding needed to build this house so it takes organizations, foundations and companies in the community to come together to make this possible.”

In addition to Habitat for Humanity personnel, Harlingen Rotary Club members and San Benito city officials, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. attended the home dedication ceremony.

During the ceremony, Lucio said years ago he passed a state bill for the establishment of the TDHCA Bootstrap Loan Program, which helps nonprofits build homes for needy people.

“Growing up, being one of 10 kids, it was so hard to find a home sometimes to rent, but we got through it,” Lucio said. “There was always a tremendous need for housing so that became the paramount issue for me as a legislator, and I’m just happy that I’ve been able to play a small part in assisting people in need.”

The impact

For Lowry, working alongside families while they’re building their home and seeing the project “come full circle” feels rewarding.

“You learn what they’re overcoming in their life and to see the culmination of their effort being fulfilled in their very own home is satisfying and emotionally overwhelming at times,” he said.

According to Lowry, more than 80 projects have been completed in the Weslaco area this year in response to flooding from last June.

Additionally, he said Habitat for Humanity of the RGV has helped more than 100 families with home modifications within the past two years.

Lowry describes his job as being “fulfilling.”

“Every day I go to work feeling good because I know what we’re doing is helping families,” he said. “Habitat for Humanity envisions a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

To apply for Habitat for Humanity RGV’s Housing Ownership Program, visit https://tinyurl.com/y4ps7zw7.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

• Habitat for Humanity of the Rio Grande Valley has existed for 30 years.

• The Housing Ownership Program of Habitat for Humanity of the RGV is looking for qualifying applicants for the construction of a new home.

• Through the program, Habitat for Humanity RGV sells “simple, decent affordable houses to qualifying low income families.

• To apply, visit https://tinyurl.com/y4ps7zw7.