Our Families

The McKnight Family

“Ecstatic” is the word Korrine McKnight uses when she describes her and children’s thoughts about becoming Habitat for Humanity of Martin County homeowners. It has been a long, sometimes hard, road for McKnight and her children, but the payoff is well worth the setbacks she said.

             Korrine, 28, a Martin County native grew up in a home with eight brothers and sisters. She will be the first of those siblings to own her own home.

Korrine went to school and has been working at the Florida Health Community Center as a  Registered Medical Assistant. Currently, she and her two children, Adriana, 10, and Adrian, 7, are living in a three-bedroom home, with six other occupants.

“I am ecstatic to become a Habitat homeowner,” she said. “Nothing in the world could compare to me providing a firm foundation for my children.”

Those children love to have movie nights with their mom and play at the local park. Adriana has a wide variety of interests, including track and field, computer club, art club and music class. Adrian likes cars, airplanes and Legos – “Mommy’s little architect,” as Korrine calls him.

“The one thing they have is common is they both share Mommy’s heart,” she said.

Korrine first heard about Habitat for Humanity of Martin County from people in her community. When she first applied, she did not get approved. Nor did she get discouraged.

“That did not stop me,” she said. “Whatever was needed, I pushed forward to get it done. Today, look where I am. Ready to start a new endeavor.”

She reapplied and was approved, kicking off one of the most exciting chapters in her life.

“My heart races from the thought that when my children look at me they see Mommy the super  hero. It means the world to me,” Korrine said. “For me, nothing is taken for granted. I give thanks always. Being a Habitat homeowner will make an enormous difference in my and my children’s lives. We are looking forward to the first step in our new beginning.”

 

The Dominguez Family

Her entire life, Bernarda Dominguez was a businesswoman, running food businesses in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the United States.

Then she got sick in 2002. And again in 2006, when her heart stopped for a few seconds. And then again in 2016 when thrombosis put her in Intensive Care for seven days. Thanks to two subsequent strokes, Bernanda does not have 100 percent use of her right arm.

None of that, however, has dampened her desire to get back to work.

“I thank God I am still alive and want to continue to struggle to keep working,” the 68-year old mother of five said. “I am a business woman. I plan to start walking without assistance and  continue my business and enjoy my new Habitat home with my daughter.”

Bernarda’s daughter is Martha Dominguez, a widowed mother of four who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1989.

Martha, 51, has worked at Club Med as a housekeeper for the past 10 years. She and her mother applied together for a Habitat home so she could better tend to Bernarda’s needs.

“She told me before I got sick that I could not continue to live alone,” Bernanda said. “We applied and got approved for a Habitat home and a couple months later I had the thrombosis.   Everything happens for a reason.”

Both women enjoy eating at local restaurants in their free time or spending time together at home with the rest of the family.

Bernanda has taken advantage of the Kane Center’s Adult day Club while she is rehabilitating. She enjoys the opportunity to be in a social setting, playing bingo and regaining her independence.

She said she is looking forward to sitting on the porch of her new home, feeling the breeze and, for the first time in a long time, not have to wonder how the trailer they are living in will hold up during hurricane season.

Martha said owning her own home is a dream coming true.

“I always dreamed of becoming a homeowner and now my hard work and perseverance has really paid off,” she said. “I feel very happy to be a Habitat homeowner. At the Homebuyer Education Workshops I learned many things I did not know that will help us to become great  homeowners. Thank you to everyone at Habitat for Humanity of Martin County for giving me this great opportunity. I am very happy and grateful. Many people do not have the happiness of being homeowners.”

 

The Cornejo/Ortiz Family

Becoming Habitat homeowners isn’t so much a dream come true for Alfredo Cornejo and Irais Ortiz, it’s the end of a nightmare.

             Alfredo, Irais and their two young children have been living in a trailer where rainwater has caused the walls to become soft and the floor to rot through. Directly next to the trailer is a septic tank which   overflows whenever it rains, creating dirty puddles and an unbearable stench.

Needless to say, this was not the dream Alfredo and Irais had when they moved to America from Mexico.

That will all change when they move into their Habitat home.

Santiago, 6, and Valeria, 4, will finally have a clean yard to play in. Alfredo and Irais will finally have peace of mind and be able to begin saving for their children’s futures.

“We will feel more secure and stable,” Alfredo said. “Just being more comfortable and knowing that our children will have their own space and, finally, stability.”

Alfredo works in Stuart as a house painter and driver, a job he has had for two years. Irais has worked in the cafeteria at a middle school in Palm Beach County for the past two years.

Santiago attends elementary school, where has proven to be very sociable, all about animal documentaries and excels in math. Valeria is in preschool and has impressed her teachers with her ability to care for other children and stand up for what is right.

“She is very protective and does not like injustice,” Alfredo said. “Santiago’s favorites are dinosaurs and math.”

Irais and Alfredo learned of the Habitat program through a co-worker and realized immediately the family could qualify without any problem. Irais will be the first member of her family to own a house in the United States, something in which both parents take a lot of pride.

“We feel fortunate and grateful that, through Habitat for Humanity, we will have the opportunity to own our home,” Alfredo said. “It means a lot since we will have a safer home and it had been one of our dreams to have a home of our own.”

But they know homeownership isn’t going to be easier.

“We will have more responsibilities as homeowners but, at the same time, we will be making an investment on a home that will belong to us,” he said. “At the same time it is an opportunity to establish permanence in a community. It is great personal satisfaction for us.”

Tomas-Lopez Family

Rigoberto Tomas-Lopez

Rigoberto Tomas-Lopez left his hometown of San Pedro Soloma, Huehuetenango, Guatemala and headed to Martin County 17 years ago, looking for a better opportunity to live and help his family, financially, back home.

                 Each day he leaves his uncle’s two-bedroom home (which he shares with four other people) and heads to work at Jupiter Country Club. He doesn’t mind the 25-mile, one-way trip, because it gives him time to clear his head and “enjoy the fresh air and sunrises”, he said.

Those wide open spaces are a change for him because, as he said, “we live really uncomfortable because our home is very small”.

One of the first things Rigoberto, 39, did when he moved to Martin County is join the Holy Cross Church in Indiantown. Still a thriving member of the parish, he said it is here that his faith has grown in Jesus Christ.

Holy Cross has several ministries designed to help grow the faith in our community. Rigoberto is very active in a ministry that is dedicated to rescuing people who have lost their way in the church.

“These are people who have abandoned their faith, have practically turned away from God,” Rigoberto said. “We do a retreat for three days and many of them come back to the church. My hope is to continue learning and to help others to get better opportunities in their lives.”

When he is not active in his church, Rigoberto spends his free time with friends, eating, celebrating holidays and taking part in many other activities. He learned about the Habitat for Humanity program through a friend and worked for eight years to finally become a homeowner.

“Now I feel too happy because I am finally going to be Homeowner,” he said. “I had this yearning and it finally came true. When I was informed that I was approved for a Habitat home, at first I could not believe that I would become a homeowner. But thanks to God and Habitat for Humanity of Martin County, I have now come to realize my dreams.

“From now on, I will continue working hard for my house to always keep it clean, make my payments in due time and maintain a good relationship with my new neighbors.”

Rigoberto is excited to move into his new neighborhood. During the time he was gathering his Sweat Equity hours, he got the chance to meet and work next to his future neighbors.

“I can say that we have interacted very well during the time I have known them, and that fills me with great joy,” Rigoberto said. “My neighbors are my new family.”

 

The Tapia/Aguirre Family

Lazaro Tapia and Gloria Aguirre have known each other their entire lives. From the playground and sitting next to each other in desks in elementary school in San Lucas Michoacan, Mexico to working the fields in North Carolina, Lazaro and Gloria have been together forever.

                  “I think we have been together all our lives,” Lazaro said. ”First we were friends, later came the courtship and we were married in 1984. We have 33 years of marriage and I hope to continue next to my wife for many more years.” Through 33 years of marriage and four children, the one thing they have never done together is own their own home. Until now.

As they move into their new Habitat home, Lazaro and Gloria are able to focus on the bright future – for them and their children – and finally forget about the dreadful living conditions they have endured.

“The place where we live is a trailer. We have always had problems with lights and plumbing,” Lazaro said. “The breakers keep going off because we have four window air conditioning units and the light bill comes in very   expensive every month. The plumbing has also given us problems even though I have repaired it several times.”

All of that is in the past now and Lazaro and Gloria settle into their new home and help their middle daughter, Mayra, achieve a dream of her own.

Mayra, 26, is legally blind but has overcome that adversity to study at Indian River State College. Her goal is to become a Braille teacher when she finishes her studies. Her dream is to be approved for a guide dog, something that she has been unsuccessful at previously because of the tight living conditions of the trailer. Hopefully, with the move into the Habitat house, a guide dog will soon be a reality.

 Lazaro will continue to work at Anderson Construction (as he has for the past 16 years) as a painter, while Gloria will maintain the home and care for Mayra.

In their spare time, they like to spend time at the beach and at soccer games. Their oldest daughter, Dora  Nely, is a competitive soccer player, almost making the Mexican national team for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

We are happy to have the opportunity to become homeowners and have a better quality of life. It is very beautiful that our dreams are coming true because we have always dreamed of having a home,” Lazaro said. “What we look forward to the most in our new home is that our daughter, Mayra will have more space to move around and will not fall again on the stairs. Now she can apply and, hopefully, be approved for a guide dog. In our new home we will have a better quality life.”

 

The Hall Family

Taneka Hall is a single mother of four children; Keasia, 12; Omarion, 10; Shaire, 7 and Harmony, 6. She works hard to raise her family, economizing and being smart with her money to provide the most opportunities for her children.

 Taneka was born in Stuart but she moved to Pahokee when she was three. Her stepmother raised her and was the most influential person in her life. She returned to Martin County in 2012 to help take care of her biological mother.

The Hall family has lived in subsidized housing for four years, where they are forced to confront many limits that often do not contribute to a secure and happy family life.

The landlord at her subsidized housing told her about the Habitat for Humanity Homeownership Program and she decided to contact Habitat to see if she could qualify. She went through the qualifying process and didn’t really believe she would get a home until she started her first homeownership class. This experience made it very real for her.

Taneka has worked for the Martin County School District’s Head Start Program as a substitute teacher for the past three years. She enjoys her work with the children.

The Hall family belongs to the New Zion Baptist Church. This family likes to spend free time watching a movie, cleaning house or attending Omarion’s football games.

She is the first person in her family to own a home and she is overwhelmed and overjoyed all at the same time. She never dreamed that she would ever own a home for herself and her family. She and her children are very grateful to everyone that has volunteered and worked to make this happen for them.

“I am looking forward to moving into my new home and enjoying it with my children. It will be very gratifying to me to see the smiles on their faces when they see all that they will have in this new home,” Taneka said. “Habitat for Humanity has warmed our hearts.”

The Carbajal Lopez Family

David Carbajal and Marbel Gutierrez heard about the Habitat for Humanity Homeownership Program from Marbel’s brother and sister-in-law who were working toward qualifying for a home of their own. Both couples were eventually qualified and they are building their homes at the same time. They are excited about becoming neighbors.

David Carbajal was born in Fresno, CA and moved to Martin County when he was five years old. Marbel was born in Mexico and came to Martin County when she was fifteen years old. They married in December of 2013.

The couple rented an apartment in Joseph Lee Gardens in Indiantown, but the rent increased and the apartment became too high for their budget. They now rent a bedroom in the St. Lucie Mobile Village Park while they wait for their home to be completed.

They have two children, Mayda, 7, and David, 17 months. Mayda attends Hope Rural School and will be entering the Second Grade when school starts this fall.  The family likes to go for walks, eat ice cream and spend time with their extended family. The time spent helping to build their new home keeps them busy. They look forward to helping future Habitat families build their homes.

David works as a painter at Ryan Baum Painting. He has been with that company for five years. Marbel works in the cafeteria for the Indiantown Head Start Program. She loves her job because she enjoys working with the children. 

Once David and Marbel learned what the criteria and requirements were they felt that they could be a good fit for the program and that they would be great homeowners.

Marbel said: “We always dreamed of owning a home and feel blessed and grateful to Habitat for Humanity for giving us the opportunity, not only to become homeowners, but to have it happen so quickly. We would like to thank all the groups, organizations, staff and volunteers who one way or another helped us build our home. At the construction site we always had someone to show us how to do the different jobs and at the Habitat Homeowners Education Workshop we learned about budget, credit, banking, homeowner insurance, home maintenance and much more to help us become successful homeowners.” 

Once they have moved into their new home they are looking forward to becoming dependable Habitat homeowners by paying their mortgage on time, being courteous to their neighbors and ambassadors for Habitat for Humanity.

The Lopez-Loredo Family

Rommel Lopez Gutierrez and Gabriela Loredo are moving into their new three bedroom Habitat for Humanity home. They are very excited to be homeowners and will have a safe and secure place to raise their children, Joseph Lopez Loredo, 7, and Coralie Lopez Loredo, 2. They cannot wait to have the key to their new home in their hands.

Rommel arrived in Martin County in 1999, hoping to provide a more stable life for himself and his parents.  Gabriela moved here in 2004, as her parents felt Martin County would provide her with a better life and that she would have many more opportunities here. Gabriela and her parents moved into the St. Lucie Mobile Village in Indiantown which happened to be where Rommel lived. They became neighbors, saw their relationship flourish and married in 2008.

After they married Rommel and Gabriela moved to an apartment in Stuart, but the rent became too           expensive and they bought a trailer at the St. Lucie Mobile Village. Rommel has works as a painter for Premium   Painters for the past four years and Gabriela has worked in the cafeteria at Warfield Elementary School for three years.

Rommel and Gabriela are members of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Indiantown. They have been busy working and raising a family and, once they are settled in their new home, Gabriela hopes to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity of Martin County to mentor other families who will be moving into Carter Park. She sees this as a way to give back for all that has been done for her family. She also feels that this will build friendships in her new community.

When Gabriela and Rommel have free time they like to spend it together. They go to the park or the movies and spend time with their parents.

They heard about the Habitat for Humanity of Martin County housing program from a friend. She told them how great the program was and the importance of investing in their family’s future.

When construction began on their home Rommel and Gabriela began to believe that this was actually going to happen for them and they were thrilled. They have enjoyed meeting the volunteers and staff that have made this miracle of homeownership come true. They will be forever grateful and want to give back in return for what they have received.

 

The Garcia Family

For the past eight years Francisco and Norma Garcia, along with their three children Alejandro, 8, Daniel, 6 and Litzy, 3, have lived in a trailer park in Indiantown. The trailer does not have central air conditioning, so the family uses window air conditioners. Regardless, the trailer is very hot, especially in the summer. During the winter, when it is cold outside, the trailer is even colder inside. The roof is in bad shape and, when it rains, there are leaks. The walls are full of termites.  The Garcias do not feel secure in the park. Their car windows have been broken twice and the windows on the trailer once. They installed bars on the windows for security, but now they worry about a fire because, if the front door is blocked, they won’t be able to get out of the trailer.

Francisco works as a boat builder for LH Boats. He has done this work for many years, while Norma is a homemaker and has her hands full caring for three small children.

In their spare time they love to spend time together, going to the park with the children, shopping or spending time with their extended family. They have been members of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Indiantown for nine years.

Their main focus right now is helping to complete their new home and, once moved in, making it their own, little by little.

Norma says, “We are really excited about becoming homeowners. We did not have any hope of owning our own home, much less owning a brand new home. We are happy because our children will not be suffering from the hot or the cold inside our home. Most of all for the first time in the last eight years we are going to feel safe and secure. No more worries about all the crime around us or living in a home with so many problems. It has been a great experience helping to build our home and the home of other future Habitat Homeowners. We had the opportunity to work along with and get to know the volunteers who came to the construction site to help us build and we learned many skills that will help us maintain our new home. We cannot wait for the dedication and the day we finally have the keys to our home in our hands. That day our dream of owning our own home will become a reality.”