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Family hopes life-changing home can do same for someone else

Sometimes, the first step toward a better life starts at home.

Moving into her Flatirons Habitat home marked that step for Brenna. Now, as she works toward finishing law school in New Orleans, she’s hoping the house can prove provide that same step for another family.

When Brenna, then a 26-year-old single mom of 2-year-old Isis, closed on her home in spring 2011, was working at a homeless shelter and a restaurant and had put an abusive marriage in her past. Despite her two jobs, it was still tough to keep a roof over their heads. She bounced between rentals, sometimes staying with her parents, but she said she never really felt like she’d be able to build the life she wanted for her and her daughter as area rents kept rising. She worried she would have to work more, but still not be able to make ends meet.

The home in Flatirons Habitat’s Northfield Village neighborhood changed that and so much more.

Her new home, she said, allowed her to settle down, But more than that, it gave her the peace of mind and the assurance that she and Isis were going to be OK. She had pride and self-sufficiency and the stability to start looking ahead to her and Isis’ future.

It was the first step. One made in a home that initially was going to be hers. Another family was selected for the home, which was being built at a location Brenna drove past every day. She said she silently wished and prayed for that house on those daily drives. When she learned it wasn’t to be, she turned her wishes and prayers outward, hoping the family that was chosen for the home would be happy there.

But then things changed, the selected family backed out, the home was hers.

She devoted herself to her sweat equity and to building that better life. She put her sweat and effort into the house and along the way, found love. She met her current husband, Nick, while the house was under construction.

They had gone to the same high school, though she didn’t remember him, and he said hello at the grocery store. Fast forward and they are happily married with a 3 ½-year-old son, Asher.

Her Habitat home helped the romance blossom, Brenna said, because she said she was in a place where she could be open to the idea of a relationship.

Fast forward a bit more, and Brenna has her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado and is in her second year of law school at Tulane. She initially made the journey to New Orleans, with Nick and the kids staying in Boulder in the home that paved the way for law school. But after the first year, all were feeling the strain. Now, Brenna, Nick, Isis and Asher are all in New Orleans and the home is being sold under Boulder’s permanent affordability covenant. The three-bedroom, 1¾-bath condo will be sold to a family earning between $45,540 and $61,440, depending on number of family members. Boulder started the application process on March 6 and was set to select the home’s next owner on Monday, March 20.

Brenna said deciding to sell was bittersweet.

“The house was so good for Isis … our little fourplex, our side of the street, there were two other girls within a year of her age. … It’s huge to go from an apartment complex where nobody talked to each other to being OK with her being in the driveway or yard and having friends to play with.”

It brought Brenna stability and brought Nick into their lives.

And it was filled with memories -- not only those they had made as a family, but those of all the love and care put into making the home a reality, “how much the community came together to support me and make it happen. The friends who watched my daughter while I did sweat equity or who came and helped build or helped me move. That’s what community is supposed to be. That’s the world I’d like to think we can all be a part of, either on the giving or receiving side.”

Brenna has been on the receiving side and she appears destined to be on the giving side, too.

Her path since that first step has included law school, internships with various programs in New Orleans, including one for at-risk youth, and refurbishing a historic home in New Orleans. That home and that internship have inspired her vision for the future. She hopes to put her law degree and remodeling experience to work in a program that will teach construction skills to young people “no one will hire” and fixing up the homes in New Orleans “so the people who live here can still afford to live here.”

She’s a long way from the first step that led her to where she is today, but she hasn’t forgotten it started with a place to call home.

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