MOUNT CARMEL — Following a year of hard work, the Rosa/Villalobos family received the keys to their forever home during a Snyder-Union-Northumberland Habitat for Humanity dedication ceremony Tuesday.

The Mount Carmel home on Olive Street was donated to Habitat for Humanity by a family who wishes to remain anonymous about a year and a half ago. Having a property in Mount Carmel was a first for Habitat, which set out to find the perfect residents for the home.

With no Habitat for Humanity in Schuylkill County, Samuel Rosa and Debra Villalobos hoped to find help from the Snyder-Union-Northumberland organization. Not only did they fit the criteria, but the proximity of the home to their jobs in the Pottsville area made them the perfect family to choose.

Sandra Hopkins, administrator at Habitat, said it’s a long process to find the right family and not everybody is right for the program, but when they met Rosa and Villalobos, they just knew.

Hopkins said when people from Habitat mention seeing people in homes with leaking roofs and crumbling walls, it’s not just a statement but a reality. That was the case for Rosa and Villalobos, whose foundation was crumbling and water was coming into the lighting units.

The couple went to view the house and said with some renovations, they could picture it being an amazing home for their family.

For the past year, Rosa and Villalobos have joined volunteers from Milton, Lewisburg and Sunbury every Saturday to do rehabilitation work on the property.

The home officially became theirs Tuesday during a dedication ceremony in which Rosa expressed his gratitude for getting to meet new people through the process. He said it was a pleasure working with the people from Habitat for Humanity and if they ever need anything to give him a call.

That call will be coming because as part of the program, home recipients have to pay it forward by volunteering to work on the next project the organization takes on.

Following a prayer and act of dedication, the family was presented with a Bible by Ellen Whipple, of family support, and a lockbox to store their new home documents in from Hopkins. Then the big moment came when Doug Gemberling, site supervisor, handed over the keys.

Hopkins said the moment the keys are given to the homeowner is like watching your child graduating college.

“When these families come in, they’re different people than when we hand them the keys. Some of these families have never held a tool in their life and now they get to build their own homes. You can see the growth during the construction process. It’s always a good feeling when we hand over the keys,” she said.

Villalobos tried to find the best words to articulate how much the day meant to her, saying being a home owner was something she waited for her whole life.

“I’m just grateful my children are able to have something to call their own,” she said.

Sometimes the process of rehabilitating the home became stressful, but she said it was exciting to be there from the beginning and to finally reach the day the keys were handed over.

“I’m just very grateful. I’ve been blessed with this opportunity to have my own home,” she said

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