Family Grappling with Loss Finds New Hope in Buying Habitat House

Garcia knew his family needed to move.

They live in a dilapidated, termite-infested home in Charles City County, a house that belongs to his mother-in-law.

It’s a place that holds reminders of his wife, Tina, everywhere.

Tina’s six children were her world. She never missed a school meeting, attended all their doctors’ and dentists’ appointments and raised them in a Richmond church where Garcia is a deacon and minister for a re-entry transitional program for inmates.

“She was always there,” Garcia says softly.

Until the day she wasn’t. Breast cancer metastasized into brain cancer. Tina was just 47 when she died on March 11, 2020.

She left behind her mother, two sisters, a brother, and her six children, four girls and two boys.

“She was everything to us,” Garcia says.

Finding an affordable home was daunting for the widow, who works full time for a tree service while also trying to fill the void left by his wife. Two of the girls are teens now; the youngest daughter is 10. The other children are young adults, finding their place in a world without their mother’s guidance. A new house had to be large enough for Garcia and at least four of the children.

Checking with the Richmond Housing Authority, Garcia was told the family would be placed on a waiting list for three years. His sister suggested he apply to Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg.

Through the nonprofit’s Homebuyer Program, qualified families can buy homes and pay back a zero-interest 20- to 30-year mortgage, funds that are cycled back into the community so more Habitat homes can be built.

Garcia applied, but his application was incomplete. He needed to supply additional documentation and wasn’t able to meet the quick timeline. Two months later, he answered a call from Meka Stewart, Director of Homeowner Services at Habitat. She urged him to supply the needed paperwork.

“She didn’t let us fall through the cracks,” Garcia says.

Invited to the Charles City Courthouse earlier in the fall of 2022, Garcia was unsure of what to expect until Habitat staff surprised him and three other families.

All four families had qualified to buy a home and were surprised with the news they had been selected to purchase homes in Charles City. Four homes are nearing completion in the County, the first time Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg has built there. The ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, May 4, 2024.

“We were so excited” Garcia says. “It means a lot. Just for us to get out of that old house and get into a different neighborhood where we can start fresh. It gives us the chance to have new neighbors, the chance to share with new people and be connected to a community.”

All of the homes have been constructed using Insulating Concrete Forms or ICF, which represents another first for the local Habitat affiliate. ICF are molds used to hold freshly poured concrete in place during construction and those molds remain in place permanently to provide additional insulation for the concrete walls. The cost-efficient material is energy efficient and disaster resistant.

Garcia’s family’s new home will be the House That Small Business Built, alongside Virginia Housing, a special build that brought together multiple small businesses and individuals to incrementally fund one Habitat house. It costs $125,000 to build a Habitat house, too steep a sum for most small businesses to fund entirely.

Garcia’s gratitude is grounded in prayer. “When things happen, I turn to God, and he comes through,” he says.

He recently questioned God by asking, “Why? Why did you end Tina’s life?”

He heard a clear response in spirit. “This is not the end of Tina’s life. It is the beginning of her new life. She is where she is supposed to be.”

“I’ll see her again one day,” Garcia says.

Until then, he will be a rock for the family Tina left behind. His days are full. In addition to his job, family and church responsibilities, Garcia and his daughters log volunteer time at the Williamsburg ReStore and on the home build sites, working toward amassing the 300 sweat equity hours required to buy a Habitat home.

The three-bedroom, two-bath house will be filled with paintings and drawings, all created by a family of artists.

Garcia looks forward to grilling in their backyard. This year, “the holidays will be in our home,” he says.

“My kids are my babies. This house, this home means everything.”


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We help as many families as we can, but the lack of decent and affordable housing remains a critical problem in our area. By donating, you will provide upfront funding for building materials and services that makes interest-free loans to Habitat partner families possible. Habitat partner families help to build their own homes - alongside volunteers - and pay an affordable mortgage. Your monetary donations enable us to continue building strength, stability and independence for future local families.