The Velarde family’s smiles could be seen a mile away during the key passing ceremony held Saturday for their new home on South Owens Street.

Dozens, including Mayor Harvey Hall, were gathered alongside the Golden Empire

he Velarde family’s smiles could be seen a mile away during the key passing ceremony held Saturday for their new home on South Owens Street.

Dozens, including Mayor Harvey Hall, were gathered alongside the Golden Empire branch of Habitat for Humanity to celebrate nearly six months of labor remodeling what is now the Velarde’s new home and the local Habitat’s first “eco-friendly” house.

“I am overjoyed to see the community I live in help a family in such an amazing way,” said Community Outreach Director Cesar Menjivar, adding that on average Habitat for Humanity Golden Empire dedicates about three houses a year. “It’s exciting to see the smiles.”

Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that dedicates untold hours to restorative projects and clean-up efforts for families affected by poverty and other socioeconomic barriers.

To qualify, recipients must be in need of safe, affordable housing, able to pay the mortgage and assist during the construction of the home. It’s a task Executive Director Tony Miranda calls “sweat equity.”

“One of the most exciting parts of the work we do is to be able to celebrate with a family with whom we’ve just completed a project helping them build and purchase their own home,” Miranda said.

But none were more overjoyed than the Velarde family, which recently moved from Plymouth Mobile Manor in Oildale. The first-time homeowners were grinning from ear to ear as they stood between the freshly painted columns of their porch, clutching newly minted keys.

“We are very happy and fortunate to be selected,” Jesus Velarde, 54, told The Californian through a translator. “We have more security and liberty.”

He said the program was recommended to them by a friend. Skilled laborers and community volunteers then dedicate financial support and what can add up to 200 to 500 hours of service to build the home.

For Maria Velarde, 44, it was a labor of love. The wife and mother of four children said the first thing the family plans to do after moving is have a party with close friends to celebrate their new home.

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