By Camaron Abundes
MIDLAND- This year is a little different than most holidays for single mother and grandmother Valerie Martinez. Martinez wrapped up a two year long journey to home ownership and moved out of an apartment, just in time for the holidays.
"We usually have our Christmas trees up, and our presents and everything wrapped," Martinez said.
Boxes out number Christmas gifts in the Martinez household but she's still counting her blessings.
"I prayed a lot and God answered my prayer," she said. "The best gift of all is having this home."
Martinez bought the home through Midland Habitat for Humanity. Habitat only selects 10-12 families each year from a stack of some 400 applications. The average house is just $52,000 dollars because the City of Midland provides the land free of charge.
"The beauty of habitat for humanity is called Jesus economics. It's called zero percent interest," Midland Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Alynda Best, said.
Best says families who are selected for the program must live in Midland County for at least a year, must currently live in substandard housing or crowded housing, and must be able to pay a mortgage and spend 350 hours volunteering.
"Hard work and sweat and it's well worth it," Martinez said.
Martinez took two years in the process, she also attended a mandatory 16 week new home buyer course.
"You don't go from renting all your life to a successful homeowner without some training," Best said.
The training pays off, Best says homeowners in the program rarely see mortgage troubles.
"You do not have foreclosures in Habitat in like you would in the real world," she said.
Best says studies show kids also preform better in school when they live in a safe, clean home. She encourages anyone to get involved and volunteer.
"Once you begin to fill in those homes with safe decent housing you change an entire community," she said.
Martinez hopes it will give her family roots and room to grow. Martinez's son Josiah Duran, 8, is excited to show off his new room.