In a way, Gwen Reis has been building things her entire adult life. At age 20, she began building cars on an assembly line for a major automotive manufacturer in New York. She later moved to Atlanta with the company.
But when that job ended, she relocated to Raleigh to move in with her brother, and set about building a new life for her and her daughter – who for a period of time lived with other family members. Now, she has just finished building her own house thanks to the support of Habitat.
“Life is all about commitment,” says Gwen. She uses the term frequently, as it’s played a key role in her success.
“When my daughter wasn’t living with me, I made a commitment to her to do anything I could to get us back together and get a place of our own,” says Gwen. “Thanks to help from my sponsors, lots of volunteers, and Habitat, I’ve accomplished my goal and have my own home.”
Her house is the 500th built by Habitat in Wake County, which she says makes her reflect on how many other homes Habitat has helped construct. “When I think of all the houses Habitat has built in North Carolina, as well as all the other locations in the United States and in other countries, it really shows their commitment.”
Gwen adds that when her house was being built, the weather was “very cold and very wet,” but she and the volunteers working on her home never let that slow them down. “I was touched by their dedication,” she says. “They did some things that really moved me, like writing words of encouragement on the baffles in my roof before the insulation was applied in those locations. As a result of their commitment I have my new house.”
Gwen adds that Habitat gave her 1 hour of “sweat equity” credit for each letter grade of A or B that her daughter earned in school. Her daughter’s commitment to doing what she could to help garner 24 hours of credit (the maximum allowed). Now when her daughter walks through their home ,Gwen sometimes hears her saying, “This is my house…this is my house…I helped get this house.”
So what’s next for Gwen? “I’ve accomplished my goals,” she says. “Now I plan to write down new goals, which will probably include getting additional education that will help me advance in my career.” Based on her accomplishments to date, it’s easy to see that Gwen is well on her way to building a brighter future for her daughter and herself.
-- Editor's Note: Bradd Pavur, Habitat Wake volunteer, wrote this story about Gwen.