Maria Ortiz, a single mom living in Columbus with her son Moises, applied to be a partner family for Habitat for Humanity of Columbus for the third time this year.
She was denied the past two years, but in 2020, she has been selected to be the homeowner for the next house.
“They gave us a surprise,” Ortiz said. “I’m really happy to hear those words. Me and my son were so happy.”
Ortiz, who is originally from Mexico, moved to Columbus seven years ago. Before the move to Nebraska, she had been living in Los Angeles but followed her parents when they moved to Columbus.
Her son Moises has cerebral palsy, and her daughter resides in Omaha. Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affects a child's movement, muscle tone and coordination.
Moises has troubles with their current living situation and faces other challenges, such as with the bathtub they used to have.
“Sometimes, just trying to get into the tub was really hard for him because he falls,” Ortiz said. “So yeah, we always had to be very careful with that. And I don’t have a ramp for him to go down in the wheelchair.”
Lori Peters, executive director of the Columbus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, said this year is special.
“We’re going to work on building a 100% handicapped house so if he has to, he can live there his whole life,” Peters said. “So it’s going to be different. It’s kind of exciting and we’re looking for construction managers still.”
Peters said they are not 100% sure on how they will approach it, but they want to possibly have larger living room or kitchen spaces.
“If he ever has to have a lift we want to make sure the bedroom’s big enough for a lift,” Peters said.
They want to design the shower so there is no tripping hazard there, she noted.
“We’ve got some people from the hospital that are going to help us get it right,” Peters said.
Ortiz said normally, one would have to buy a house and then spend the money to make accommodations. It’s not that easy to get a house, she noted.
“This is something really good,” Ortiz added. “It’s a (blessing) they can help low-income families to have their first house.”
Another "amazing” thing is how this house can help her son learn to be independent, Ortiz said.
Ortiz wasn't expecting to be approved this time around as she was thinking that somebody else would need it more than them.
“God has other plans,” she said, adding that she is very happy.
Through it all, she is grateful for the support of her family.
“My sisters, they’ve always been a big support to us. I got here with my kids because I was here alone with my kids and they’ve always been supporting us - my mom, my dad, my sisters and everybody,” Ortiz said. “Everybody’s so happy, my sisters, their husbands … they’re always supporting us, we always support each other … family is everything.”
Carolyn Komatsoulis is a reporter for the Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at email@example.com.