Accomplishing the Milestone
Staff members at Habitat Collier left their offices to the sound of a ringing bell to discover fellow coworkers in tears of joy, eventually congregating in the building’s common area. To great delight, the staff discovered that their senior-most coworker, Julian, Habitat Collier employee for 18 years, was about to accomplish a milestone.
Good People with a Bad Home
As a generous friend, Julian volunteered to help his friend Santos’ family earn their sweat equity hours for their Habitat home back in 1996. It was while pounding nails and spreading paint that Julian learned of the wonderful living conditions made possible through generous donors and dedicated volunteers for deserving families.
“We used to live in a trailer—me, my wife, and our five children,” Julian said. “It had a lot of leaks and was in really bad condition. We kept asking the landlord for repairs, but he never did anything for us besides raise the rent.”
It was on that same jobsite where Julian met Sam and Mary Ann Durso. After learning of the Julian’s family’s plight, the Durso’s encouraged them to apply for partnership with Habitat for Humanity. A year later, Julian’s family had a safe, decent place of their own.
“My family was finally safe. I felt a lot more comfortable as a father,” Julian said. “I could concentrate on what was important: providing for my family.”
However, with Julian off the jobsite and in his own home, the Durso’s were at a loss.
Volunteer, Homeowner… Staff Member
“Julian was a superstar on the jobsite. One heck of a guy,” said Sam Durso. “His enthusiasm, good will, hard work, and dedication to what we were doing out there, the mission, he was the best we’d ever seen.”
It was a watershed moment for the fledgling Habitat for Humanity affiliate that was still entirely run by volunteers.
“We made a decision. Maybe it was for the best that we hire someone. With a guy like Julian around full-time, we could serve more families,” Durso said.
“Things were a lot more efficient with Julian there every day. He worked well with volunteers—they were happier, more productive, and did better work. The affiliate never looked back.”
Throughout more than eighteen years, Julian has worked with over a thousand deserving partner families as they built their own homes.
“I know what that moment feels like. When you sign your papers and get your key. I want to do whatever I can to help others have that same moment. I told Sam, yes. It’s been the most meaningful work to be a part of.”
Julian has been passionate about his job for nearly two decades. This is exemplified by the fact that he carries his first pay stub in his wallet as a reminder of the joy, energy, and pride that he felt that first week working at Habitat for Humanity.
An Ordinary Day Becomes a Red Letter Day
“My daughter Karina likes to go into Habitat. I’m there almost every day,” Julian said, holding back tears. “She went to the office to pick up my payment book. She saw it and was surprised that our family’s balance was only $22.13, and called me and said that I need to go to the office right away. I asked her why and she said it was because our mortgage would be paid off today!”
Julian hadn’t anticipated paying off his mortgage for another year, and was shocked that the time had finally come.
Surrounded by his children, grandchildren, and Habitat Collier staff, Julian proudly dated and signed his last mortgage payment to Habitat for Humanity. Applause, congratulation, and celebration rang throughout the building.
“I’m still looking forward to working; I still love what I do,” said Julian. “Thank you to everyone who has made this a reality for me.”
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