They’re thankful to have more yard work in the summers than they ever expected, including pulling weeds, planting landscaping and trying to get a green, grassy lawn established where there was only black dirt.
They’re thankful their five kids have a swingset in the backyard, allowing them to have friends over without Angela worrying about the children playing along a busy street.
More than anything, the Salinas family is thankful they can call their Fargo house a home with the help of Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity.
“We’re thankful for our house that fits our family,” Angela said.
Angela and Carlos Salinas were longtime renters in the community, making do with the space they could afford.
But it’s hard to find an apartment big enough for a family of seven, Angela said, especially because more bedrooms typically means a higher cost, making it too expensive to rent as she finishes up her education to be a nurse and Carlos works seasonally for a concrete company.
That’s where Lake Agassiz Habitat for Humanity, the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International that serves Cass and Clay counties, came in to help.
The family applied to the nonprofit in June 2012, going through several rounds of interviews before getting word in March 2013 they were approved.
Construction on their house in south Fargo began in the summer of 2013, giving the Salinas family a chance to pitch in on parts of the building process until they were ready to move in in February.
While the Habitat for Humanity program made it possible to afford a house because of the no-interest mortgage that’s income based, Carlos Salinas said he sometimes encounters people who wrongly think they got it for free.
“We’ve still got to pay a mortgage. We’ve still got to work, and we’ve got to put in our hours,” he said.
Instead of monthly rent checks, Carlos Salinas now budgets for a mortgage payment – and he’s just fine with that.
“That’s nice, knowing that it’s eventually going to be ours and not having to depend on somebody to come fix your stuff,” he said. “When it’s got to get fixed, you just do it yourself, and you don’t have to wait two or three weeks for your landlord or maintenance man to come do it.”
The family has space to spread out in the six-bedroom, two-bathroom house that’s allowed 15-year-old daughter Tanisha to get a room of her own.
Now that they’ve lived here a while and given the house time to settle, Angela said they’re ready to paint the walls and add their own touches. The artistic Tanisha is looking forward to guiding that work, starting with covering her white bedroom walls in a shade of light purple or minty blue.
“She can pick out color schemes and stuff that matches, and she’s kind of our go-to gal when we want to know stuff,” Angela said.
The family now takes pride in their neighborhood, where 7-year-old Josslyn and 5-year-old Carlos Jr. are just a block away from their school and mom and dad have good relationships with the other homeowners nearby.
Twins Carly and Karmella, both 4, also enjoy having a nice, open living room to relax and play in when they’re not too busy watching “Frozen” again.
The home also is efficient during the winter, Carlos said. It’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified because of the extra insulation that make it less expensive to heat.
The Salinas family might be out of town for Thanksgiving, but they’re thankful to know they have a cozy home of their own to come back to after the holiday.
‘Hand up, not a handout’
Pete Christopher, resource development and marketing manager for the local affiliate, said families are chosen for the Habitat for Humanity program based on three factors.
They must show a clear need for a new house, whether it’s because their current house is unlivable or too small or if the applicant has escaped an abusive relationship or suffers from medical problems.
They have to meet income guidelines, proving they’re gainfully employed and can pay back the mortgage – it’s a “hand up, not a handout,” Christopher said.
The final step is a willingness to partner with the nonprofit, with each adult in the family required to put in 250 hours of “sweat equity” that includes working on their own house, assisting on other Habitat homes and putting in time at ReStore in Moorhead.
Families that meet those requirements are interviewed until the nonprofit decides who will benefit from next year’s construction – though many won’t because the need is too great.
“Right now we have about 38 qualified applicants for next year’s houses, and we’re really only going to be able to do three at the most,” Christopher said.
Karmella and Carly Salinas share a room at the family home in south Fargo. David Samson / The Forum
After four years of covering news for the Grand Forks Herald and The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Ryan Johnson has been a features reporter for The Forum's Variety section since 2013. His prior beats included politics, business, city government and higher education. Johnson is a 2008 alumnus of the University of North Dakota. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org