SALISBURY (CBS) - Kids tossed a football around in their new yards Wednesday as their parents proudly stared at the keys to their new homes on Old County Road in Salisbury.
"Words can't express," begins Willy Gerard, a Haitian immigrant and single dad to a pair of small children.
He chokes back tears before finishing, "I don't have words. That's how proud I am."
This was the day that three deserving families got to check out their new digs – all built by the global non-profit Habitat for Humanity.
"It's a dream," says single Mom Jessica Rivera, "that I never thought possible."
Rivera and her two youngest children now call one of these gray clapboard homes their own – after years of struggling to make rent in Haverhill on a CNA's wages – fighting through evictions and even homelessness. "And now I have the happiness of knowing that it's not going to happen again," she says.
Thanks to some 200 donors, craftsmen and volunteers, Habitat of Essex County is now churning out 10 units per year – at a monthly payment that allows homeownership by folks who could otherwise never afford it.
That payment is never more than 30% of the bread winner's income.
"The families we help are tremendous people," says Habitat of Essex President Dick Sumberg. "They're hard working and they just need a hand up – not a handout. Just a little help to own their own homes – which is the American dream."
Sumberg says finding affordable lots to build on is Habitat's biggest challenge.
All of these new homeowners put in sweat equity on the homes coming their way. In fact, that work serves as their down payment. And their community efforts on behalf of others weigh heavily toward getting this opportunity.
Jessica Rivera's 17-year-old daughter Kaishalis is going to have her own room for the first time.
"And I still can't believe it," the teen says with a huge grin. "Because every day I look at this house I think 'Wow, my dream actually came true.'"
Habitat for Humanity is the largest non-profit builder in the world – founded in 1976. It operates in 70 countries.
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