When Martina Prado looks out over a vacant, straw-strewn 2-acre lot in north Wichita, she sees the beginnings of a dream come true.
Prado, a 25-year-old mother of three, broke ground Wednesday afternoon on the home she is building on the corner of 27th Street North and Fairview with the help of Wichita Habitat for Humanity. Three other women and several of their children joined Prado in marking the day as a milestone on their paths to homeownership. Eight families will build their own homes, as well as those of their neighbors, on the lot.
Tears streamed down Prado’s face as she approached the podium at Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony to address Habitat staffers, representatives from sponsoring businesses and her fellow future neighbors.
“I have always wanted to own a home,” Prado said. “I want to have a safe place for my boys, and I want to show them that anything is possible if you think positive.”
Prado said she’s particularly looking forward to living in a house without mold. She said doctors are concerned that the mold in her current home may be contributing to her youngest son’s ongoing health problems.
For over a year, Prado has attended Habitat’s personal finance and home maintenance classes. She has put in nearly 180 hours of “sweat equity,” helping to build other Habitat homes around Wichita while working at Jordan Chiropractic, where she has been employed for eight years.
Prado said volunteer teachers at Habitat helped her improve her credit score and taught her how to create a budget and set aside money each month. Local Habitat board member Heather Haines said these efforts are an important part of Habitat’s mission.
“We don’t just hand people a key, wish them luck and move on,” Haines said. “This is about ending the cycle of poverty and transforming the lives of our homeowners and their kids.”
Marci Hawks, development director for Wichita Habitat for Humanity, said that building homes in groups is more efficient and helps create a sense of community. The nonprofit purchased the land for the homes with funds donated by the Goebel Family-Star Lumber Charitable Foundation. Employee volunteer teams from Star Lumber and other local businesses will spend weekends alongside Prado and the other Habitat homeowners helping to build the eight homes.
Star Lumber President Patrick Goebel said the foundation chose the name Cottonwood Corner because, as he said, the trees are symbolic.
“Cottonwoods are hardy and strong, just like the families who will make this place their home,” Goebel said.
Regina Henderson, 34, watched her 2-year-old daughter, Ina, play in some dirt that had spilled onto the lot’s newly paved cul-de-sac. Henderson, who also is building a house, said she already feels a bond with the other families who are building there, from all the work they have done together on other houses.
“We’re going to be a big family, basically,” Henderson said. “It’ll be really nice to have people on your block who you know.”