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New home: Family in house for Christmas thanks to Habitat

LeAnn Launstein, right, executive director of Racine Habitat for Humanity, hands over the keys to the Ibarra family’s new house on Friday in Racine. Clockwise from left are: Gael Ibarra, 7, Jose Ibarra, Mayela Garcia, Kevin Ibarra, 12, and Alondra Ibarra, 3. (Christina Lieffring/The Journal Times via AP)

LeAnn Launstein, right, executive director of Racine Habitat for Humanity, hands over the keys for a new house for the Ibarra family on Friday in Racine. Clockwise from left are: Gael Ibarra, 7, Jose Ibarra, Mayela Garcia, Kevin Ibarra, 12, and Alondra Ibarra, 3. (Christina Lieffring/The Journal Times via AP)

By CHRISTINA LIEFFRING
The Journal Times

RACINE, Wis. (AP) — The home of Jose Ibarra and Mayela Garcia was full of light, laughter and love on Friday, and they hadn’t even moved in yet.

The couple welcomed family, friends and Racine Habitat for Humanity volunteers and then gave thanks, blessed their new house and receive their own set of keys.

“We’re very excited for our own home,” said Jose.

“We have a lot more space,” said Mayela. “And we have a yard of our own.”

The house’s yard consists mostly dirt, a fact that didn’t stop the couple’s three children, Kevin, 12, Gael, 7 and Alondra, 3 and a handful of friends and cousins from running around, playing a raucous game of hide-and-seek.

Jose said he plans to start planting grass when the weather warms up in the spring. For now, they have to move in and get everything set up so they can play host for Christmas with their families.

Labor of love

The house the Ibarras received, at 1716 Geneva St., is the 98th house Racine Habitat for Humanity has built.

The lot, along with a house that had once stood there, was given to Habitat by Wells Fargo, as was money for the demolition of the former house and some extra to get work on the new one started.

The house isn’t a gift: The family has had to put in what Habitat for Humanity calls “sweat equity” by working on their own house and others. Plus, they will have a mortgage. Habitat selects families that many lenders would overlook and checks their income to ensure they have enough to make their mortgage payments.

Inside the house on Friday, volunteers at Racine Habitat for Humanity looked around at the fruits of all their hard work. Tedd Swartz, a construction leader on the project, had high praise for the volunteers, saying they “treat (their work) like a job.”

Dennis Weisbrod installed drywall in the Ibarras’ house. He’s a regular volunteer who’s been helping out on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 10 years.

“When he retired, I had to get him out of the house,” said his wife, Judy.

Donations to the family have also included quilts from United Lutheran Church, 3525 Erie St.; an American flag from Dover Flags, 323 Main St.; cleaning products from First United Methodist Church, 745 Main St. and SC Johnson; and flower boxes made by campers at St. Edward’s summer camp.

The Rev. Juan Camacho, pastor at St. Patrick’s, St. Richard and St. Edward parishes gave a blessing in Spanish as everyone raised their hands, then touched the walls of the house and said “Amen.”

Racine Habitat for Humanity plans to complete its 99th house sometime in 2020 and bless its 100th house just before Christmas one year from now.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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