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Flatirons Habitat for Humanity’s vision of decent and affordable housing for all immediately resonated with Jenny Ray when she signed on as a development associate nearly nine years ago, just at the end of the recession. For her, homeownership comes hand-in-hand with community. And Jenny understands first-hand what a difference both can make.
She remembers feeling like “everybody took care of everybody” when she was growing up in Boulder in the 70s. Later a single mom, she moved from home to home with her son as cost of living in her hometown soared. This lifestyle lacked the sense of safety and stability that she had known as a child.
6 years later, when Jenny and her husband Dave moved into their own home with their son she realized that homeownership helped bring that feeling back.
Photo: Jenny with her husband Dave, son Halden, daughter Nola, and dog Lulu-Bug.
“When we finally had our own home, it was completely different. Your whole world changes around” she said.
This personal experience helped Jenny fall in love with Habitat for Humanity’s mission. She quickly realized that Habitat doesn’t just build houses - it creates community. And in turn, individual homeowners are empowered.
“Community is what raises people,” she said. “Habitat builds communities and it makes them even stronger.”
One of Jenny’s favorite examples of this is watching the homeowners at Coal Creek Village bond and build a tight-knit network of support.
“It was a lot of single moms and they came together and became best friends,” she said. “Their kids became siblings to each other. And if one mom had to work, there was always another one there. To me, that’s just awesome.”
To Jenny, the difference that this kind of inclusive community makes on individual homeowners is clear.
“People are more reserved when they first partner with us,” she said. “They get nervous to talk about where they were before. But once they start building the house that they’re going to own – they become more confident, happier. And their kids become that way as well.”
Jenny also sees people coming together on a broader scale during the creation of these small, supportive networks. She’s watched builds bring the Boulder community together as individuals recognize what a difference a home can make.
She remembers seeing Boulderites join forces to complete the build at Northfield Village - Flatirons Habitat’s first LEED Platinum-certified home - in 2010. Buzz about the highly sustainable structure brought new partners and volunteers to the table as people became increasingly excited to pitch in for the project.
During builds like this, she says, people’s eyes are opened to the importance of embracing affordable housing.
“Once people come in and build with our families, they see that they absolutely deserve a hand-up,” she said. “They see that the people who are teaching our kids or working in our city should also be able to live here.”
So why does Jenny build? To create strong, supportive communities. She knows that in turn, those communities will foster the growth of its members.
“They deserve it, they work hard,” she said. “So many families here have been through so much and worked so hard, and they just need that extra little help.”