Celebrating a new start

The line of cars stretched for blocks. While most of Culver City, California, was still shut down as a result of the pandemic, local Habitat supporters didn’t want to miss a chance to welcome their newest neighbors — even if it had to be from a distance.

Staff from Habitat of Greater LA, adorned with face masks and pom-poms, were on foot to lead the parade of cars past Habitat for Humanity of Greater L.A.’s six newest houses and the families, eagerly waving from the front porch, who now call them home.

Before COVID-19 hit, Kaoru and her four sons, Ryan, Trenton, Mason and Kendall, had planned to host a party in their new backyard to thank the donors and volunteers who had toiled beside them and cheered them on their years-long journey to homeownership. Although the party planning had to be scrapped to protect everyone’s health, it was only fitting that their supporters still showed up to celebrate this milestone. “The community has supported us every step of the way,” says 21-year-old Mason. “They mean so much to us.”

Instead of the high-fives and hugs typical to home dedication ceremonies, the procession used homemade signs and car horns to show Kauro and her boys that they would continue to be here for them—whether alongside them or six feet away. “Our new home is in a wonderful community that is blessed with the most incredible and diverse people. Working with them on this project has made it really special,” says Kaoru.

The home — with wider hallways and accessible bathroom fixtures — will allow her youngest son, Kendall, who has cerebral palsy, more freedom. He started exercising that increased independence early by contributing sweat equity hours to its construction — painting, sanding and even picking up loose nails on the site with the help of a magnetic dragnet attached to the back of his wheelchair.

“It’s inspiring to know that I helped build our own home and an amazing opportunity to get to know the people who helped us,” says the 18-year-old. “I can’t put it into words with how excited we are for this new house, and this new journey we’re on.”

“It has been an amazing journey for us. A long, crazy journey,” adds his mom, Kaoru. “And I know it’s just the beginning.”

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