Back in 2018, Grand Island Area Habitat for Humanity was wrapping up a capital campaign for its first sub-division. As fall weather brought cooler weather, the race to get infrastructure completed was heating up.
"Exactly two years ago this week, crews were paving the street," said Dana Jelinek, the organization's Executive Director, "I would go out to take pictures and chat with the crew when the machines were getting set up."
Among the crew members was Juan Gabriel. As his co-workers asked questions about the sub-division and Habitat, Juan committed the conversations to memory. So, when the next home loan application period opened, in December 2018, he and his wife sought out more information and applied to the program in hopes of moving from their aging trailer into a new home.
The Gabriels were among about 100 households that year seeking to be part of Habitat's home building and loan program. When the applications were reviewed, credit and background checks completed, and interviews and home visits finalized, the Gabriels were among the households who met qualifications and were selected for the five openings.
The Gabriels started their journey to homeownership by helping to build Habitat homes, as well as participating in mandatory homeownership education classes. Along the way, members of the organization's Family Support Committee helped mentor the couple. One of those mentors was Jess Castro.
Castro had volunteered on a Habitat construction site through her employer, Wells Fargo. The financial institution has long supported Habitat, by providing grants and volunteers, like Castro, to help provide housing opportunities to low-income households. Through her volunteer experience, Castro was interested in doing more.
After Castro joined Habitat's board, she met the Gabriels and started helping them navigate through Habitat's process. At about the same time, the organization was applying for a yearly grant from Wells Fargo to help fund the construction of a house.
With construction schedules thrown off due to 2019 rains and 2020 Covid shut-downs, an interesting partnership emerged. Two years after pouring the street for the Habitat sub-division, Gabriel will be moving into a home on that street later this week. In another twist, the house he and his family will be moving into is sponsored in part by Castro's employer, Wells Fargo.
Seemingly random acts in both Gabriel and Castro's lives have brought them together. As the keys to the home are turned over, in a private ceremony this Saturday, it will be the culmination of a journey that took some turns, but ended up exactly where it was meant to be.
Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit housing organization that works with qualifying low-income applicants to build homes and preserve housing. Habitat provides no-interest loans to make improved housing affordable.

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