Siblings Mohammed and Nadia giggled as they tested their keys to a well-refurbished home on Kavanaugh Drive in East Palo Alto Saturday.
"Everybody deserves this," tenth-grader Mohammed said with a warm smile as he, his mother, Fauzia, and sixth-grade sister, Nadia, geared up to move in to their new home.
The family's move is the first local success in a new program from Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that builds and renovates homes for those in need.
The Neighborhood Revitalization Program, through which Fauzia became a homeowner, aims to address the foreclosure crisis hitting local communities. (The family's last name is withheld according to the nonprofit's policy.)
Through the program established 20 months ago, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco purchases foreclosed homes with public and private funding and organizes volunteers to renovate properties for aspiring homeowners in need.
"For a single mom of medium income, it's just a dream come true," Fauzia said Saturday.
At the dedication ceremony, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco Executive Director Phil Kilbridge stood atop a podium in the backyard with his 3-year-old son beside him and space for Fauzia to grow a garden to his left. Kilbridge put the celebration in perspective.
He described the program's efforts to alleviate the housing crisis with somber reference to the reason that Habitat for Humanity was able to purchase the property for around $200,000.
"This is a bright spot in a real tragedy. This was someone's home before," he said.
A selection committee chose Fauzia, who had previously applied to the program in Menlo Park, from among many applicants. She in return will pay a mortgage of up to a third of her income.
She along with family, friends and coworkers contributed 500 hours of "sweat equity," helping at current Habitat for Humanity projects alongside volunteers.
"Please accept the keys to your new home and your new life," Cisco Community Relations Manager Marguerite Lee said as she handed the keys to Fauzia, who cried with joy.
Brother-in-law Rahmat Khan gave a blessing over the home, and her son spoke on her behalf on stage.
"I feel that she deserves this more than anyone because of her triumphant spirit," Mohammed said.
Menlo-Atherton High School senior Michael Chu, president of the school's Habitat for Humanity Club and one of 151 volunteers involved in the renovation, presented a gift to the family at the dedication: a set of simple household tools.
Fauzia is already well-versed in their use. She painted walls, sanded floors and helped install cabinets and said living in the home and seeing the result of her work will remind her of her efforts.
While the local branch of Habitat for Humanity bought Fauzia's home before the East Palo Alto City Council approved $300,000 to fund Neighborhood Revitalization Program efforts earlier this year, three home renovations are currently underway and two are being done with the help of city funds.
The council will vote on a decision to additionally contribute $200,000 to projects in February, Vice Mayor Carlos Romero said.
Romero said that while Saturday's event was cause for celebration, the local and national housing crises continue to threaten further foreclosures.
Many speakers discussed the larger climate of foreclosure crisis. Susan Ford Dorsey, president of the philanthropic Sand Hill Foundation, ended her speech on a more personal note.
"Children, I hope you remember as you grow older how hard your mother worked for this. When you grow up, think about how you can repay her and the community," Ford Dorsey said.