Betty Monroy is a Habitat LA partner homeowner, who started her Habitat LA journey in 2008. Read about her story in her own words: Habitat for Humanity is not just the organization that helped me and my family, they really are my family. The day they came to announce I was now a partner family and they were welcoming me into their family, those were real words. My family and I are grateful to Habitat for Humanity because they really helped us out when we were in the direst times of our lives. Habitat LA threw me a lifesaver and I held on tight and I am here today as a success story of someone who was given a hand up.
I am ten years into my home. In December 2009, Habitat LA gave me the keys to my new home. We didn’t even have electricity in the house, it was supposed to be turned on the next day. Habitat staff told me “you might want to move in the next day,” but my son said, “no we are moving in now, we’ll get blankets!” So we slept on the floor of the new house…that was ours.
But my story began back in 2008. As you recall, that was not a good time for the country. We were in a very bad situation. My family is a very close-knit family. I am the oldest of four, I have three brothers and we always looked out for each other. If one needed help, there was someone to help. We were always that close but in 2008 we couldn’t help each other. We were all struggling. I found myself in a position where I needed to decide about dividing up my family in order to survive as a single mom of three little kids. As a mom, you are the momma bear and you have to do whatever it takes, it doesn’t matter if it hurts, you have to keep your children safe. That’s what I was going to do, divide up my family to keep them safe and in their schools.
I have two sons and a daughter. My two older sons are both high functioning autistic boys. If you know anything about autism, they do not react well to change. I just couldn’t destroy my family, so I was going to make the hard choice of leaving my two sons with family in Downey and taking my daughter with me because she was small enough that it wasn’t going to impact her as much as it would my sons. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew I had to figure it. That’s when Habitat came to the rescue and threw me the life saver.
I’ve always been a volunteer in my community. I’ve always been the person if you come to me, I will help you. This time, I was on the other side of that, I was the one needing help. Someone I’d previously helped told me “do you know Habitat is going to build a house in Downey and you qualify?” I went and I was at the orientation an hour before it started, waiting in the parking lot. The process isn’t just putting your name on the list and if you qualify, they will call you. It was a very involved process. I had to complete a large stack of papers. I devoted my dining room table to all my documents. I said I am going to do this, because I have to, I am the momma bear.
When Habitat LA came to announce I was the person selected, I had a small place and there were thirty people from the Habitat team in my living room and I was worried I didn’t have enough chairs for everyone. They said, “we need to ask you one more question.” I thought they didn’t believe my sons were autistic and that’s why everyone came to see for their selves. Never did I dream it was to let me know that my family was selected.
They said, “we have to ask you one more question” and I said “okay.” They said “you know you have to work 500 sweat equity hours in order for you to qualify for this house. Are you willing to do that?” I said, “I will not only work 500 hours, but I will dedicate my whole life to Habitat for Humanity.” What I said that day, is what I am going to continue to do for the rest of my life. Any time Habitat asks me to support, I am there because I am that grateful.
When we were building my house, only my oldest son could help me build and he has Asperger’s. He was ultra-smart, but he didn’t like meeting new people. Every day we had a new group of people. There was nowhere to go, so he would hide in the tool shed. But as we started building the house, he started taking pride in what he was doing. He was helping with drywall, flooring and all the things he was now invested in because this was going to be his home. Towards the end, he was leading tours of his house. That was huge to see how he grew by the end of the process. The day of our home dedication ceremony, I didn’t think my son would want to speak but he surprised me and gave a huge speech about how he was excited to build on his own home. The same boy who was hiding in the tool shed at the beginning.
Ten years later, my oldest son, the one who hid in the tool shed, is currently in his fourth year in the U.S. Navy as an aviation mechanic. My middle son works for my brother’s water business and he takes so much pride in his work. He also travels around the country following his passion of watching professional wrestling. My daughter, who is dyslexic, received a call three weeks ago saying she received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Maine playing soccer as the head goalie keeper.
Can you say I am proud? Yes! I am proud. Do you know why? It is thanks to Habitat and the people who support the organization. Someone believed in me and I have made friends for life. I truly take it to heart that you are my family. I am just one story out of the thousands, which just blows my heart up because I am blessed now and so are so many other people. I know how hard it can get. Keep doing what you are doing. Know that you are impacting the lives of real people. I am real and I am thankful to Habitat for Humanity.