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Crista grew up very poor saying, “There were five kids in our family. Our house was small – it had a living room and two bedrooms, one was our parents and the other was the kids. Yes, it was five kids in one bedroom, we didn’t play inside much.” Crista’s childhood home had an outside kitchen sink and an outhouse. With No running water or heat, they bathed in a metal tub behind the house in the summer and in their bedroom in the winter. She adds, “I remember the school packing us extra food to take home and the church bringing us food and clothing.”

Isabelle, Crista and Anthony at the beginning of their journey to owning their own Habitat home.

In the ninth grade, Crista’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and the family moved to Albuquerque. After her mother’s surgery Crista worked a full time job and went to school for about a year. “My sisters and I were left to help her change her bandages from her surgery. To see and hear my mother in so much pain was one of the hardest things,” says Crista.

At age 16, Crista met Victor and became pregnant. Victor’s family lived out of town so they didn’t have anyone to help them. Crista’s daughter Isabelle was born in 2005 with Erbs Palsy on the right side of her body. “I was a 17 year old drop out, with no one to help me with a new baby. We were always behind on bills and we could never catch up. I took the bus three times a week with my daughter to physical therapy. Thanks to WIC, I could keep her fed,” says Crista.

In 2007, Crista gave birth to her son Anthony. After a few years Crista got a call from a nurse who told her that her mother was air lifted to UNM. That night they put her mother in an induced coma. “My mom was put on life support because she wasn’t breathing on her own. The doctors told us if she did wake up she would not be the same, she may not be able to talk or have any movement. The night before I was supposed to meet my siblings at the hospital I prayed harder than I ever had in my life,” says Crista. “The next day I went to the hospital early. With tears in my eyes thinking of my last good bye, I walked into my mother’s room. My mom was sitting up and told me the angels touched her shoulder and she woke up.” Crista’s mother had both legs amputated just below the knee. It was a long journey to recovery.

Through all of this, Victor and Crista began arguing. “He was mean all the time. I know I should have left sooner but I wanted my kids to be around their dad,” says Crista. Wanting to be on her own, Crista waited for Victor to leave for work one morning and she took the kids and left. “I never looked back. I saved money and bought things for our own place one week at a time. Victor and I fought for so long but we are finally at a place where we can talk without arguing,” says Crista.

In January 2017, Crista’s mother passed away. “One of the last conversations I had with my mom before she passed was about Habitat for Humanity. I told her that I might be able to get my family into a brand new home. She knew how hard I was working on getting a home and she was proud of me,” said Crista.

Crista has been able to provide for her kids saying, “I have learned from budgeting classes, and spending my income on our needs and not wants. Things I do to make sure we can survive include going through the weekly ads to see what we can use to save money on food. I also check out passes for local museums and visit my friends at their apartments to go swimming. We go to the dollar movies on Monday because it is only 75 cents for three or more people. We shop at thrift town for clothing and other house hold items to stay in our budget.”

When asked about owning her own home and what it means to her, Crista said, “No one in my family has ever bought a home. I want to own a home to provide stability for my kids and to show my kids with hard work and dedication you will reach your dreams. I want my kids to be proud of where they live and to invite their friends over. I want to change my address one last time. I want to put my Christmas tree in the same spot. I want my kids to have their own rooms. I want to buy matching dishes for Sunday dinners with my family.”

Thank you to Wells Fargo, Sandia Federal Credit Union, Irving and Lois Hall and all the Sandia retirees and friends who will help us build this home for Crista and her children.

Crista with her children standing alongside Joan Costello, GAHH Executive Director, a representative from Sandia Federal Credit Union and Jeff Payne, GAHH Board President.