East Austin family's Habitat home complete


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and photojournalist MICHAEL MOORE

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE


Posted on December 13, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 18 at 1:52 PM

AUSTIN -- This Christmas season Santa Claus will pass out a lot of gifts, but perhaps none as special as the one Austinites helped to give a single mother of two.

"The key to your new house," said Austin Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Kelly Weiss as she presented a key to Maria Loya.

With the passing of the "Good Book" from Habitat for Humanity volunteer Bill Aguayo, "It is my honor to pass the Bible on," he said.

After cutting the board, Loya became a homeowner.

KVUE and SolarWinds teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to build a three-bedroom house.

"A lot of people look at television stations, and they think that we're all about entertainment, and we're all about the news, and truthfully, those two things are absolutely critical to what we do, but the reality is, for all of my staff, the thing that makes us happy is the public service that we do," said KVUE General Manager Patti C. Smith. 

"We've been tremendously fortunate over the last couple of years. We've been able to grow in a difficult environment, and our team likes to give back and share some of the blessings we've been given," added SolarWinds President and CEO Kevin Thompson.

The work wasn't easy. 

"We're very good with numbers, not so good with hammers," laughed SolarWinds CFO Mike Berry.

It was well worth it to help a family who has always lived in public housing.

"It's kind of hard. The kids there were always pretty mean," said 15-year-old Samantha Loya. "I couldn't really go outside that much because they would hit us -- me and my brother."

Samantha's 24-year-old brother Micheal was born healthy but was diagnosed with meningitis at one month old. He now has mental and physical disabilities.

Still, he too helped put in the 300 hours of "sweat equity" required to get the home through the Habitat for Humanity program.

Habitat officials like to point out that the homes volunteers work on are not a hand-out, but a hand up. The Loya family and other recipients not only work on these homes, but they will pay for them.

"After putting in all that work, habitat still has a zero percent interest mortgage. Our homeowners do pay a mortgage," explained Weiss. 

The money Loya will pay for her house will go toward building other Habitat homes. It's a bill Loya says she is happy to pay for her castle.

"She says this is the best present ever, besides us," said Samantha as she translated for her mother. 

"Feliz Navidad," exclaimed Maria Loya.

It was a joyous response for the gift of a lifetime -- a home for the holiday.