New Habitat Homeowner moves into The House that SWAT Built, dedicated in memory of Dave Ericson

Sonia receives a donated quilt during the dedication ceremony

On Saturday February 11th the House that SWAT Built in memory of SWAT member and long time friend of Habitat Dave Ericson, was dedicated and the keys were handed over to new homeowners Sonia and her son Angel.

Among her many words of appreciation Sonia said, “My number one goal and now accomplishment has been to own my own home. It’s been an honor working with all of these volunteers. I have learned a lot of things. If it wasn’t for SWAT there would be no build. Thank you all.”

Jay Dugas, SWAT member, presents a plaque to honor SWAT volunteers who have passed away.

During the ceremony a plaque was dedicated to all the SWAT (Special Assignment Work Team) volunteers who have passed away. This group of hard working men and women are the backbone of our volunteer program and without them we simply would not be able to build homes for low-income families. SWAT is a core group of about 40 members who show up, rain or shine, every build day.

RtoL: Sonja’s mother, Bill Reilly, Angel, Lori Valdez and Sonia Hinojos during the Ribbon cutting for the home dedication

Bill Reilly, Habitat Construction Manager, closed out the ceremony by adding a few words about Dave Ericson, whom the house was dedicated to, saying, “As I got to know Dave over the years I knew that he wasn’t afraid to ask the hard questions when he had his Habitat Board of Director hat on. And when he didn’t have his board hat on, he was a kind, gentle man. When Dave stood behind you he would give you words of encouragement, and when he stood beside you he would support you and when he stood in front of you he would protect you.” Bill added, “These keys that open Sonia and Angel’s house represent all the encouragement and support and protection that Dave stood for. Congratulations!”

When I went to my first Habitat home dedication ….


Joan Costello, GAHH Executive Director (left) standing with Ruby, Victor’s mother, during his Habitat Home Dedication in November 2016.

Though I grew up poor in a small community on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, every family had a home of their own. We were a community that supported one another by celebrating the victories and dividing the grief. Our home was a space to call our own.

As an adult, I volunteered a few times on a Habitat build. I was impressed by seeing families working alongside volunteers. It wasn’t until later when I moved to Albuquerque and was asked to join the board of GAHH that I came to realize the depth of what it took for those families to get to that point of working on their own home.


Showing everyone her very own room during Korina Manning’s Habitat home dedication in 2015.

When I went to my first Habitat home dedication, I had an epiphany. I took for granted that there was always a roof over my head, my worries were for other things. Here was a family that lived in substandard conditions and only dreamed of ever owning their own home.

The tears of joy from the parents as they could barely speak to the crowd, and absolute glee in the children when they showed me their “own rooms” was overwhelming. I knew then that I was called to continue working with Habitat – you could say I got “Habititus.” That was 10 years ago, and the passion is still there, stronger than ever.

GAHH has built 181 homes in Albuquerque. I have had the privilege of witnessing the struggle that families experience as well as watching them work toward fulfilling that dream of homeownership.

Herrera home dedication

At the Herrera Family home dedication on December 17, 2016 – each child and mom are presented with a handmade quilt.

The reward of being associated with Habitat is sharing their joy. Just recently, a homeowner came running into my office and gave me a big hug. She said, “It is one year since I got my home. Have you seen it? It is so beautiful! I want you to come see what I have done. And guess what? I pre-paid my mortgage for a whole year, and I am going to pay $250 extra each month from now on. I want to pay my house off in 10 years, so my girls will never have to worry about not having a home like I did.”

Last week, I was with another partner family whose home is not yet finished. The mother told me that she had never dreamed she would graduate from college, but she did. Now, she is going to have a home of her own. She said that once she gets in her home and situated, her next goal will be to go back to school and get her MBA. “Dreams can come true,” she commented.  Her son was there and also told me that he definitely will go to college – that is his goal. What we do impacts lives in more ways than I can say, but there is no doubt that having a home is life-changing.


Joan Costello, GAHH Executive Director and Lori Valdez, GAHH Board President standing with the Cordova family during the first Mesa del Rio Home Dedication September 2016.

Miss M told me she was homeless twice, and lived in her car with her 2 children. She fought and struggled and managed to get a job and apartment for her family. She was translating at an outreach event where we were looking for families. It was on the second round that it dawned on her that she herself might qualify. She now has a home of her own, a steady job, her daughter graduated recently and was accepted into Culinary School. She volunteers and participates in many of our events and outreach. Her warmth and excitement is contagious, and she is truly a part of our Habitat family here.

There are so many stories to tell – I wish you could hear them all. For us, the tears are always tears of joy. When people invest in GAHH they are in turn investing in changing lives forever. Our investment in low-income families, through educating them on various aspects of homeownership gives them the tools they need to become an active part of a community.


Holding the “KEY” to their new home!

As one homeowner put it, once she turned the key and opened the door to her new home, she asked herself, “Okay, what’s next?”

That last question is a daily mantra here at GAHH. We march forward, looking for more lives to change, more communities to impact and more ways to provide the hope that so many seek. Blessings to all!


Written by
Joan Costello
GAHH Executive Director

Welcome home Victor! The Lodge 60 House dedication was Saturday November 19


Friends and family gathered on Saturday November 19, just in time for Thanksgiving, to celebrate Victor Hoak, an Army Veteran, to welcome him home to his new Habitat house!


Lori Valez, GAHH President, standing with Victor and Ruby during their Habitat home dedication.

Lori Valdez, Board President welcomed everyone and introduced Victor, saying “Victor is a young man who has impressed me beyond his years. And he is a great addition to the community we are building here on Mesa del Rio.”

Victor’s mother Ruby is part of the Blue Star Mothers, a group of mother’s whose sons and daughters are currently or have previously served in the military. It’s this group that recommended Victor apply for a home with Habitat for Humanity.


Carol Sanchez spoke on behalf of the Blue Star Mothers, a group of dedicated mothers with sons and daughter who are active duty or previously served in the military. She was helped introduce Habitat to Victor, encouraging him to apply.

A representative from the Blue Star Mothers, Carol SAnchez, spoke during the dedication saying, “We cannot give enough back to our veterans and we cannot thank Habitat for Humanity enough for helping Victor.”

Victor stood calmly as many volunteers and friends congratulated him and wished him well. When he spoke, Victor graciously said, “It’s been quite a journey getting here, starting about a year ago I was unsure where I was going to live. This is just so great, I wish the world could experience this more often. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.”

Congratulations Victor. We are forever grateful for your service to our country and we are inspired by your hard work and dedication to bettering your life. May your journey be blessed.





Give the gift of home to a deserving family this year – State Tax credits still available

State and Federal Tax Credits for donors who support affordable housing

tax_creditProviding safe, decent homes with an affordable mortgage results in strong and stable families; and strong and stable families result in strong and stable communities. This is an amazing gift in and of itself, but did you know that donors who support Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity (GAHH) can take advantage of a generous tax credit?

The State Tax Credit Program provides tax credits to individuals and businesses making donations to affordable housing projects approved by the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority (MFA). Currently, GAHH’s 8-home Mesa del Rio Project is approved.

All donations to the Mesa del Rio Project of $1,000 or greater are eligible to receive a New Mexico state tax credit from GAHH. The Tax Credit is equal to 50% of the value of the donation and can be used –as a direct credit on personal and corporate income tax returns.. In addition to the New Mexico tax credits, a taxpayer can also claim the standard charitable deduction on the federal tax return.

How it works

A taxpayer with a combined federal & state tax rate of 40% can earn back 90% of his or her contribution in tax credits & deductions. A donation of $1,000 to GAHH, receives a $500 state tax credit, and a $400 federal deduction. GAHH receives $1,000 to build homes for low income families in our community and the taxpayer’s end cost is $100.

A Real Example

The Aragon family cutting the ribbon on their new Habitat home, Ron's house, in memory of Rob Livingston.

The Aragon family cutting the ribbon on their Habitat home called Ron’s House, in memory of Rob Livingston.

In August of 2014 The Aragon family moved into their Habitat home. One of the generous sponsors for the home was Ron, a longtime GAHH volunteer and donor. His family’s contribution toward building affordable housing gave him the opportunity to take advantage of state tax credits.

“The tax credit was never a determinate of whether I would give to Greater Albuquerque Habitat, but rather an incentive that encourages me to increase my gift and make a bigger impact,” said Ron. “Because of the tax credits, Habitat receives an increased contribution, larger than what I could typically give. I can even carry that credit forward on my taxes for up to 5 years.”

Donors are essential to our mission to build decent, affordable homes right here in the Albuquerque community. Habitat homes are the result of collaborative efforts by Habitat homeowners, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual donors, a group of volunteers known as SWAT, and private foundations.

“I started volunteering with Sandia Labs and then I was invited to join the SWAT team,” said Ron. “After building several houses, seeing the joy on the homeowner’s faces and hearing one girl tell me that she’s going to go to bed and not be afraid at night anymore, I began to realize the impact we have as a volunteers and a donors.”

Donations of money and time are critical to ensuring that we can continue to provide affordable homes with low-mortgage rates and zero interest loans to families struggling to make ends meet.

“As a donor, it may only seem like I have helped one family, but really I have helped all the generations to come in ways we can’t realize,” added Ron. “By helping a family purchase a home of their own, we are changing the cycle of poverty for their children and future generations.”

Tis the season of giving. Make an End of Year Donation

With the end of year right around the corner, it’s the perfect opportunity to make a donation and benefit from a tax credit at the same time.

Any donation restricted to the Mesa del Rio project of $1000 or more is eligible. You can make an online donation now or make a check payable to GAHH and mail to Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity, 4900 Menaul NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110, attention Beth Goldman.

If you mail a check, please write state tax credits in the check memo. GAHH will contact you to sign the state tax credit application before the end of the year.

Making friends, building trust and fostering camaraderie

House SWAT built July 2016What do you get when you put a bunch of smart, capable, reliable, do-gooders to work building affordable homes?

For the Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity the answer is easy – SWAT.

The Special Work Assignment Team, affectionately known as SWAT, is undeniably one of our strongest allies in our mission to build affordable homes. This year alone, SWAT members have worked nearly 8,000 volunteer hours.

I had the privilege of chatting with a few of our illustrious SWAT volunteers at the Mesa del Rio build site last week. We only talked briefly during a lunch break, but it was clear to me that friendship, trust and camaraderie were the key ingredients to keeping this group of volunteers coming back week after week and year after year.

As soon as we started talking, one SWAT member let me know that, “69 is the average age of a SWAT volunteer.” And it’s true, the group is made up of an eclectic team of do-gooders like Ed, a retired Maintenance Manager who has been a SWAT volunteer for a couple of years. He used to volunteer on church missions and when he decided to look for a new opportunity he called us. Once he started building homes, Ed said he just kept showing up week after week because he enjoys working with his fellow SWAT members. When asked why he likes building homes Ed told me, “You’ll live longer. You either use it or lose it.” And the best part of the job? “It’s always fun to watch someone get a house,” he said.

IMGP1330_House SWAT built July 2016Another SWAT volunteer I had the chance to chat with was Blaine, a retired Maintenance Manager from CNM. Although relatively new to SWAT he echoed the same sentiment I kept hearing and sensing among the group that day, “It’s about community participation.”

I spoke with Barry, a retired HR executive from New York who saw a commercial for Habitat International and was moved to volunteer. He participated in their Global Village which took him to Taos to build homes. After that experience he was hooked and began building with Habitat in his hometown in New York. Once he relocated to Albuquerque, it didn’t take long before he was volunteering with us and was initiated into SWAT. According to Barry, “This is fun. It’s work for some people, but to me this is fun.”

One last SWAT member I was lucky to talk with before lunch was over and everyone hurried back to their assigned task was Bob. He was recruited to SWAT 12 years ago by a colleague and friend, Irv Hall, a long-time habitat supporter and SWAT member. When asked why he stuck around volunteering all these years, Bob said, “I like the people I work with. It’s a great group and I enjoy being out here with these guys.”

The House SWAT BuiltBuilding a home takes many hands. Each dedicated SWAT volunteer seems to know that they are part of something great that gives them the opportunity to make friends, build trust and foster camaraderie.

Just this past year GAHH honored the SWAT members by naming one of the new construction projects “The House that SWAT Built.” And in true SWAT fashion, this group of caring volunteers decided to dedicate the SWAT house to the memory of their longtime friend and fellow SWAT member Dave Erickson.

It’s truly amazing what happens when well intentioned, honorable people come together. There are no amount of “thank you’s” that can repay their effort, time and dedication, but we’ll keep saying it – Thank You SWAT!