The Habitat partnership is a hand up


Danna Webster, KP News

Two more Habitat for Humanity families are coming to the Key Peninsula community and the only thing they had in common before the Habitat partnership was their grit and determination to have a better life.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Habitat houses was held June 26; first, in Lake of the Woods for the Manibusan family home; and second, at Palmer Lake for Bonnie Malone’s family home.

The Manibusans left their family, friends and culture in Guam and came to the United States determined to find better education for their four children and better employment for the father, Gerald.

“Schooling in Guam is not really a priority. No buses; no textbooks,” Gerald Manibusan explains. His son asked if it was possible to go to the States.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Manibusan asked him. His son was sure. The decision was made that night and he told his wife, Juanita. He gave a two-week notice at work and left in January.

“I thought — my kids are not happy. I need to do something. I’m a man that takes my chances. I’m not afraid to give it a try,” Manibusan says.

After two months, his resolve began to weaken and he called Juanita, homesick and wanting to return. She told him to try a little longer.

“I really thank the Lord above,” Manibusan says, explaining where he got the strength to stay a little longer. “He helped me a lot… I talked to him a lot.”

Manibusan got a job and sent for his family. They settled in Tumwater, paid $650 a month in rent and acquired a pickup truck. There wasn’t room in the pickup for all the children and Juanita established a schedule for shuttling the kids to their schools. Gerald got a new job for Pierce County in Tacoma. His work started at 9 a.m. Juanita shuttled him to work at 6 a.m. and returned to Tumwater in time to get all the kids to school.

Since January, their vehicles improved (from the pickup, to a four-door sedan, to a van); employment improved; and now they are building a house. Some family friends can’t believe what they have done in less than one year. Juanita tells them, “There’s so much out there. If you want it, you go out and find it.”

Juanita says it is not easy for their teenager, who wants what all teen-agers want. But the family values are clear, “Our heritage… family comes first. We make the best of what we have. If we can have it, we will … concentrate on our own house,” she says. So far, the house is keeping all the children happy.

It was a long, hard day when Juanita took her house application to Habitat for Humanity. She found out about it online and knew it was her opportunity. That day, she had to “get my kids early; get all documents ready early; stand in line and pray and hope they’re going to accept you and that everything is in order.”

The Manibusans’ family partner, Pamella Inveen, saw them as they worked on their application at the Key Center Library. She remembers noticing them, thinking they were special, and that maybe they would get a home. “They are a great family,” she says and expresses her belief about opportunities. “You’re in charge of your own destiny.”

Which is exactly what Juanita believes. She tells her children as she sends them off to school, “I can’t sit there in school with you for six hours. [It’s up to you] if you decide the right path; or you don’t.”

The entire family is happy with the chances they took and the choice they made to seek new opportunities. They are making plans for their first barbecue in their new home.

“Every day I thank Habitat because I know I would never have gotten this opportunity back home,” Juanita says. “Wow! I’m building my own house.”

The Malones

Bonnie Malone’s family home will be in Palmer Lake. Her partner, Angi Hebard, knows what getting a Habitat home is like from the inside out. She celebrated her first anniversary in her Habitat home last November.

“The whole thing is kind of intimidating,” Hebard says.

“I’m the go-between for you and Habitat,” she tells Malone recently as they meet at a coffee shop. She recommends taking lots of pictures and already has a photo album to give to Malone. “You can gradually learn how it all goes together. You are going to meet the most interesting people in this organization. It’s just awesome,” she tells her.

Bonnie Malone moved from her hometown near Westport and started a new life in a half-way house in Tacoma. She says the other women in the half-way house had such terrible problems that she realized, “I wasn’t half as bad… but I didn’t have my kids.” Malone has four children, ages 18, 17, 12 and 4.

Since her move, she has enrolled at TCC and has three quarters to finish; she has participated in the TCC work study program for two years. She now rents a house and has a landlord whom she “loves to death.” But the rent and the electricity take all the money she makes.

“Now I’m self-sufficient,” she says. “I’m almost finished with my school.” Her major is human services and she wants to work in programs dedicated to reuniting families. Becoming self-sufficient is the major change in her life and she credits her religious faith. “I always have been raised in a church atmosphere, and I never felt I had a relationship with God. But now I do. I have a relationship with God today.”

Hebard explains the 500 work hours that Malone must contribute before she can buy her home. She can work 300 hours building on her own home; but 200 hours must go for somebody else. That is part of the partnership with Habitat.

While Hebard’s house was being built, she lived in Allyn, went to school and worked. “I would quit work; go there and sweep,” she tells Malone. The work included picking up nails, sweeping, and making lots of “L’s” (corner braces).

Both women admit to having trouble with nails. They can’t figure out how some people can hammer in a nail in three hits when neither of them can even count the number of times it takes them to sink the nail. They agree to a simple truth about the hammering job: Bend the nail; pull it out; straighten … start again. Determination will get the job done, they say. Just as determination made them Habitat families.