A home of her own: Winston-Salem parishioner fulfills dream of home ownership
WINSTON-SALEM — St. Benedict the Moor parishioner Venetra Fries is elated with her new home. It is a first for this Winston-Salem native and her two children, and it is thanks to her hard work and Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County that her dream has come true.
Following nearly a year of planning, saving, volunteering and attending classes, Fries closed on her house May 19. With Andrea, 7, and Andrew, 2, she moved in the next day.
"I feel blessed more than anything else," Fries says. "Putting my children in a home, where it is comfortable and a good place to raise them – that is a blessing."
Some time ago, Fries explains, "I had it in my mind that I wanted to get a home ... I was tired of renting, but the funds weren't there for me to do it on my own."
A paraprofessional who works with adults with disabilities, Fries learned about Habitat for Humanity from a friend who is a homeowner through the program. She told herself, "I'm going to do what I have to do to get where I want to go."
A year ago this month, Fries put the wheels into motion. She had to apply and meet strict criteria to be qualified, including having limited debts and steady employment. Then she had to wait several months, as well as save $600 to put towards her down payment. She followed measures to set up an account with the New Century Individual Development Account program, part of The Experiment in Self Reliance Inc. of Winston-Salem.
Last fall, she learned she had been approved.
Homeowners with IDA are required to take financial literacy classes for six to eight months, according to Hilda Moore, director of Family Services of Habitat. This class time is applied toward 300 service hours – including 100 hours of "sweat equity" on building their home – that Habitat requires for each homeowner, and which Fries had to complete before moving into her home in May.
Fries also attended Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University," and she volunteered at Habitat ReStore, several Habitat fundraisers, and the Home and Garden Show at the Benton Convention Center.
While the homeowner must complete the majority of hours, 50 of them may be completed by friends or family. Fries credits her fiancé, Jesus Hidalgo Rabago, for his help in helping her achieve her goals.
"I would work on the weekends (when I was off from my job) and my fiancé would work during the week (when he was off from his job). He is as much a part of this as I am," she says.
For her "sweat equity," Fries tiled a bathroom floor and Rabago put up siding. Because her home was nearly finished before she could put in her hours, she worked on homes for other Habitat recipients.
Looking back on how she got to where she is today, Fries says, "You have to have your mind and heart set on what you want, know that it is going to take hard work, and you have to be persistent to the end."
To cap off her dream of beginning a new life with her family, she and Rabago, who is also a parishioner at St. Benedict the Moor, were married at the church June 11.
-- Susan DeGuzman, correspondent
Pictured above: Venetra Fries enjoys the morning sun as she stands on the porch of her new home with daughter Andrea and son Andrew. (Susan DeGuzman, Catholic News Herald)
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