Vanessa Saez thought it would take her years to afford her own home and be able to raise her children in it.
But thanks to Habitat for Humanity and Women Build, a group of women sponsored by Chico's FAS, Saez was able to achieve the dream of home ownership.
On Saturday, Saez and her family, friends and many of those who in two weeks helped almost totally rehabilitate a house on Noretheast 30th Place in Cape Coral, were on hand for a home dedication where Saez received gifts, the keys to her new home and the chance to say back thanks.
Pam Avesian, vice president of Internal audit at Chico’s FAS, presents Vanessa Saez with the keys to her new home at the dedication ceremony of her new home Saturday.
For Saez, it was the end of a long quest.
"I'd been trying for three years to get a home, but my credit history wasn't long enough so I didn't qualify for the banks," Saez said. "My friend told me about Habitat and how she got accepted. I tried and got accepted in January."
Saez, who has two small boys and is helping raise a third, had to qualify financially, save $1,700 toward closing costs, attend classes focusing on home ownership, budgeting and maintenance, complete 300 hours of "sweat equity" by volunteering at Habitat and pay for the home through a 0 percent mortgage.
For Saez, who is currently working full time while attending college on the weekends, the sweat equity was the difficult part.
"It was hard to get the hours in. Finally, the semester ended and I was able to do my hours," Saez said. "It was amazing."
Saez is one of two Women Build homeowners, a program Habitat started to highlight the importance of affordable housing in women's lives.
"This is after 200 women have physically rehabbed this house and almost 400 women raised the money," said Kitty Green, CEO and president of Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties.
"Many women work hard and still need help to afford a decent home."
Pam Avesian, vice president of internal audit for Chico's, said the two organizations were meant for each other, since Chico's is a women's brand.
"That we can give back to our community, especially to women, is a great opportunity. It changes lives forever, not only those who help but those involved to give a stable foundation," Avesian said.
At the dedication, Saez received the standard doorknocker, flag and Bible from Tanya Soholt, vice president of family services for Habitat.
Ginny Huffer of the Garden Club of Cape Coral, which donated all the landscaping, presented Saez with a garden hose to keep the new plants looking good until the rainy season.
"A group of 15 or 20 of us were here at different times, all week long. We bought plants, dug holes, put dirt in it and put the plants in a mulched it," Huffer said. "It's nice to see someone get a new home and have a great place to live."
Saez also received some home necessities to give her a little bit of a head start.
Saez is eight classes shy of a bachelor's degree in business administration and wants a master's degree in mental health.