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  • Writer's pictureGreater Springfield Habitat for Humanity

Meet our families: the faces behind the Habitat homeownership mission

Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH) recently celebrated its newest homeowner. Single mother Antonia Santos purchased a 1,500-square-foot colonial home in Holyoke for herself and her four youngest children. Like her predecessors, and someday successors, Antonia came from a challenging background in which homeownership would not be attainable through traditional means.

Left: Aimee Giroux, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH) executive director, hands new homeowner Antonia Santos the keys to her newly-purchased home. Attorney and GSHFH board member Mckenzie Russell-Masterson looks on.

Greater Springfield Habitat believes its homeownership mission is a crucial foundation for any family. By moving out of substandard housing and into a Habitat home, homeowners and their families become more likely to improve their health, attain a better education, and increase their safety and personal wealth.

“I think we all gain inspiration from our partner families to continue helping others become homeowners,” said Olga Callirgos, GSHFH Homeowner Programs coordinator. “It isn’t easy to overcome language barriers, health issues, domestic violence, or any other bumps in the path of life, but yet it has made our partner families more driven and dedicated to a fresh start.”

Antonia and her children are survivors of domestic violence. After leaving an abusive husband, Antonia sought help from nonprofits to get a fresh start. She found counseling, training, and employment. She learned to live by a budget, save regularly, give back to the community, and build a support system through her work and church families.

“It has been a hard road, but I made it. No, we made it, my family and me,” said Antonia at the Valentine’s Day dedication, a ceremony celebrating the completion of the new home’s construction. She closed on the house the next day. “God is good. He has blessed me tremendously, especially with my family and the opportunity to partner with Habitat for Humanity to help make my dreams come true.”

In January 2023, Greater Springfield Habitat sold a home, which neighbors Antonia’s residence, to a family of four. Lifelong renters Juan Gonzalez and Ireydiza Perez purchased the home to give their two young children better lives.

Several years before they partnered with GSHFH, Juan and Ireydiza dreamed of purchasing their first home through traditional means. Then, tragedy struck. A workplace injury disabled Juan, the breadwinner. Following several surgeries and two strokes, their dreams were put on hold. Juan was unable to return to work. Ireydiza left school to become the sole breadwinner, and create time to care for their children and her recuperating husband.

“I know we all experience unexpected hardships in our life and these times are when our trust in God is tested,” Juan said. “After my stroke and losing my career, my family and I got tested. I didn’t think getting a house for them would be possible. Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, y’all are making our dream come true. … Not only do you build houses and sell them at affordable prices, but you also save lives through this program. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for giving us the opportunity to be homeowners.”

In September 2023, Greater Springfield Habitat accepted the newest family into the homeowner program – Driss and Majda Errahali with their four children. The family emigrated from Morocco in 2018 in search of better opportunities. They lived in a house in West Springfield until a car crashed into the home causing structural damage. It was condemned and the family was moved to a tiny two-bedroom apartment in the same town. The girls who are 8- and 11-years old share one bedroom, while Driss, Majda, and the two youngest boys share the other bedroom.

“We applied through the homeownership program to get a home so that our children would have a better life,” said Driss, the patriarch who works as a truck driver, while his wife Majda cares for the children. “My dream is for my children to be good people and useful to society, and do good deeds for the environment, and achieve their dreams.”

Construction on Driss and Majda’s home is scheduled to begin this spring.


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