Volunteers turn shack into home for needy family

December 17, 2010 8:18:14 PM PST
They are the kind of conditions no one should have to live in: no heat, no electricity, not even a bathroom. But it's exactly what's happening in one Fort Bend County home. Soon though, that family will be moving out after getting a helping hand from strangers.

The family lives near rural Kendleton in Fort Bend County. Living in squalor, some say conditions were similar to that you'd find in a Third World country.

With fowl running wild there, you might think a shack that's in Fort Bend County is nothing more than a chicken coop. But inside it lives an entire family -- a grandmother, grandfather and six children, aged 10 to four.

"At night, we always get cold," resident Lisbeth Guevara said.

Whoever coined the phrase "home sweet home" hasn't seen that home. There is no bathroom, no running water. The only electricity is extension cord running into the home from a source outside.

"They were just doing the best they could with what they had," Home Depot store manager and volunteer Daryle Ryan said.

It wasn't always like this. Three of the children were abandoned by their mother and left to be raised by their grandparents. Then someone who didn't own the land fraudulently sold it to them, stealing thousands of dollars from them.

Three years ago, members of a church group found them all living in the shack and knew handing out a few Christmas presents wasn't enough.

Ray Garcia with Disciples of God's Son ministry lost his job earlier this year and took that as a sign that it was time to build the family a place to truly call home.

"I can make all the money in the world, but if I change one kid's life and make a difference in their life, that's more important to me," he said.

So Garcia tirelessly solicited donations and volunteers -- thousands of hours and raised thousands of dollars -- from too many organizations and corporations to mention.

Over the last few months, they built a new home that just feet from the old.

"What you see today came from the hearts of men. There was no other motivation," said volunteer Dave Vice with A.D. Vice Construction.

It's a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house. A $10,000 grant from Home Depot has helped.

"To me, we're not building a house. We're giving somebody a home," Ryan said.

Now the family has a house to call "Home Sweet Home."

The house is scheduled to be finished over the next few days. Organizers are still working on getting donations like furniture to fill the new home. The family is supposed to move in Thursday, two days before Christmas.

The Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office is collecting presents for those six children. If you'd like to donate to their "Santa Behind the Badge" program, you can contact them at 281-341-4732.


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