Wanting to move back to the community I grew up in to be closer to family and friends, I returned to Ottawa last summer with my kids. We moved in with friends temporarily, while seeking housing. Finding affordable and decent housing proved to be much more difficult than I had anticipated.

In the normal housing market and with one income, I simply could not afford to purchase a home for my family, and I struggled to find housing. However, prayers were answered in January when a few members of Habitat for Humanity surprised my family with news they were going to partner with us to restore a home in the community ó a home we would be able to purchase! One that would be affordable and spacious enough to raise three kids!

Habitat was going to make a dream a reality by helping me provide my kids with the stability and consistency that they deserve. Over the months that we helped restore the home, we were blessed with so much more than just a home. We were able to build a lasting relationship with Habitat for Humanity, which we found out is so much more than just an organization that builds homes for people. It is an amazing group of people with big hearts, who are willing to share so much of their time to bring freedom and hope to families. This group of people took a personal interest in my family, encouraged me along the way, listened to me and helped me make decisions.

Through the generosity of this group of people, I also was blessed with the opportunity to teach my kids about hard work, community and what it means to be surrounded by people who really care about you. I am so thankful we were chosen to partner with Habitat, and I am excited about what Habitat is going to continue doing in our community and that we will have the opportunity to give back through the same organization that has given us so much.

I feel truly blessed to have a warm, safe and sturdy house that has so quickly become our home. The kids decorated their rooms, littered the yard with their toys and invited friends over to stay the night. They have sprinkled the carpets with glitter, vacuumed it up and then done it all over again. We have cooked dinner together in the kitchen, watched for the first star of the night from our deck and caught fireflies in our backyard. We all have gone to our own parts of the house to have a little privacy and then all flocked back together to watch a family movie. We are making memories together in a home that we are able to call our very own, and one that we have the security of knowing will be ours for a very long time.

Words canít even describe the joy it brings me to be able to say this.

ó Kristen Riley, 2012 Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County, partner family