A Homeowner with Deep Ties to Habitat
Gloria has seen her fair share of Habitat families reaching milestone moments. As a respected community leader, dedicated Immokalee staff member and proud Habitat homeowner, Gloria has the pulse on all things Habitat. And now, she joins the proud group of Habitat homeowners who have celebrated the accomplishment of paying off their mortgages.
The day that Gloria made her final payment was a particularly special one in the Habitat office as she and her family are a beloved part of the Habitat Collier team. Not only does she work in the Immokalee office, but her late husband Martin was a Habitat Construction Supervisor and her son-in-law worked with Habitat for eight years.
“We’ve been through some very difficult times together,” said Rev. Lisa Lefkow, Habitat Collier Executive Director, “and to see this day come and to know that her home , the house that she and Martin built together, stands as a legacy to him and to the family that they have raised, is so meaningful.”
It all began while the family was putting in their sweat equity hours. Martin became a standout on the job site. His construction skills and hard-working attitude led Habitat to hire him for a permanent position as Construction Supervisor. Tragically, Martin was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and passed on too soon, leaving a void for both the Quintanillas and for the organization who counted him as one of their own.
“When he passed away, the Habitat family circled around to console this branch of our family,” Lefkow said.
The entire family left an impression on those who joined them on the job site. Volunteers who continue working on the Immokalee job site remember Gloria from the early days and take pride in knowing that the hand-up they offered has had a profound impact on her and her family.
A New Chapter
After her husband’s passing, Gloria joined the Habitat construction crew and she sees her work with the organization as an extension of his.
“Martin loved his job. Habitat was like a second family to him,” she said. “After his passing, I decided that Habitat was the only choice for me. It feels like home. Working here gives me a sense of peace knowing
that I continue to work at the place he loved.”
Eventually, Gloria transitioned from the construction crew to a position in the Immokalee office. She’s become a community leader as the head of the Homeowner’s Associations in Immokalee.
“I feel they see me as an equal,” Gloria says of her interactions with homeowners. She makes sure they understand the importance of keeping up with the maintenance and appearance of their homes. With Gloria’s guidance, neighborhoods come together for the benefit of everyone living in them.
Though Gloria now spends most of her time working in the office, she remembers all the things she learned from Martin. In preparation for the opening of Habitat Collier’s first model home last October, Gloria was on site daily making sure the house represented what potential new homeowners could expect. In fact, she single-handedly laid most of the floor tile.
“I love to see the families’ reactions when they get to see their finished home for the first time. Working here, I know all the hard work that has been put into each home. I myself have worked in many homes; I couldn’t tell you how many, but I can tell you that I’ve left a little piece of my heart in each one!”
Her Forever Home
For Gloria, it’s always been about her children. She’s proud to have raised her kids in a stable home and even more proud of the people they have become. Daughter Valerie is married with two beautiful daughters and works at Highlands Elementary School. Her son Martin is in surveillance at Seminole Indian Casino in Immokalee, and is working to become a supervisor. Gloria says making that final mortgage payment means she’ll have stability and happiness for the rest of her life.
“I will always have a place to stay, my kids will always have a place to visit, and the memories of their childhood will always be there,” she said. “Owning my own home means that I made it!”
Looking back, Gloria says her life has improved for the best.
“I have become stronger as a person and achieved goals that I never thought possible.”
Now that she no longer has a mortgage payment, Gloria plans to put those funds away for her retirement. She can’t wait to see what lies ahead in life and she’s looking forward to watching other families succeed through their partnerships with Habitat Collier the way hers did.