There were a lot of smiling faces in Kenosha Sunday as the Vega family received the keys to their new home at the dedication of the first Habitat House for Humanity in the city.
In construction since last fall, the four-bedroom home at 3914 14th Ave. symbolized a dream come true for 38-year-old Jose Vega, his wife, Zenaida, 40, and their three children, Maria, 19; Luis, 15; and Angela, 13.
"We're very excited," said Jose, who works as a bus driver with First Student bus company. "It was a good experience having all these volunteers come. You watch it as it grows."
Kicking off the dedication, Habitat board president Joyce Pavlina said it's a special day seeing the house finally completed.
"When you work on a Habitat house, you really have a wonderful feeling and know you're helping a deserving family."
The Rev. David Raben of St. Mary's Lutheran Church opened the dedication with a prayer and a fitting prayer based on Acts 7 that "the house did not fall because it was founded on the rock."
State Rep. Tod Ohnstad said he was glad to have voted for the project several times during his time on the Kenosha City Council and happy to also donate a new Kohler kitchen sink he had stored in his garage.
"I want to wish the Vega family a long life here,” he said. “I couldn't ask for better neighbors."
After cutting a ribbon at the front door, the family held a lit candle and the Rev. Carlos Florez of St. Mark's Catholic Church blessed the house in prayer.
Ed Hauser, head of the Family Partnership, presented the family with a new Bible and said of the Vegas, "It was interesting to see them meet every challenge and on the spiritual side, to see the faith they have."
The family also received house-warming gifts of hanging flower baskets and will be receiving some flowers to plant in the front. Three beautiful quilts were given to the three children, made and donated by members of the Southport Quilters Guild.
The family closed on the house on Friday, signing the papers to finalize the mortgage. Habitat for Humanity International finances its houses with a 30-year loan at zero percent interest. They also put in some 400 volunteer hours of "sweat labor" helping construct the house.
Accepting the keys, Zenaida expressed everyone's feelings as she cried happy tears.
"I don't have the words for it," she said. "I'm so happy. I've got something. It's my house."
For the Vega children, the excitement was evident.
"It's a huge change for the family, and we gain more space," said Luis.
For sisters Maria and Angela, moving to their own home from an apartment the family had rented in Pleasant Prairie had even more meaning.
"I feel excited," said Angela. "I'm getting my own room."
Her former roommate Maria joked, "But she'll miss me."
She was just as happy, of course, because she got to decorate her own room however she wanted. One hint was in the purple blanket at the end of her bed.
"I like purple, "she said.
The family planned on spending the first evening just enjoying their new home after a busy day with family and friends, many from their home parish of St. Mark's Catholic Church.
How they truly felt was evident in the heartfelt display Zenaida had put together in the downstairs sitting room: Against one wall stood the gold shovel that was used to break ground for the house, along with a framed copy of the first newspaper story about them and the house.