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Churches, Habitat build mother her first home

A woman who recently lost a son to leukemia gets a home of her own.

By BEN MONTGOMERY
Published June 10, 2007


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TAMPA - Josefina Zepeda worked on this little house for 500 hours, sweeping floors and hammering nails, a cheap price for a dream.

The home is her first, a gift from the community through Habitat for Humanity. It's beige with white trim on a small lot on a dead-end street. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a nice kitchen.

She favors the living room. It's the first thing you see.

"It's the start of my house, " she said. "The start of my new life."

Zepeda, 39, works in the housekeeping department at Tampa Preparatory School. A son, Carlos, died of leukemia in November at 13. Her daughter, 14-year-old Jennifer, lives in Honduras. Now that she has a home, Zepeda wants to bring Jennifer here to live.

Folks from Van Dyke United Methodist Church and St. Timothy Catholic Church teamed up with Habitat to build the house on N 64th Street, south of Columbus Drive, in the Six Mile Creek area of east Tampa.

They poured themselves into the project.

They laid the slab in January, then an average of 26 people a week put in seven hours a day on 14 Saturdays. With that many people on a construction site, there are bound to be problems.

Someone spilled a gallon of red paint on the front porch. Sherry Haywood accidently threw away a lock set. Chris Briggs' thumbnail has a blemish the color of mud from when she whacked it while installing soffits.

But in the end, a woman got a new house.

"I personally don't know of anything more rewarding, " said Roxane Jordan, a volunteer from Van Dyke United Methodist Church.

Saturday morning, someone passed Zepeda keys to the front door and a welcome mat with words on it.

Home is where the heart is

"I am so, so happy, " Zepeda told the people who gathered for the short ceremony. "I thank everybody, and God. I am so excited. This day I will never ever forget in my life."

One man ran his finger under his sunglasses.

"I lost my son, " Zepeda said, "pero but God gave a surprise for me."

Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2443.

[Last modified June 10, 2007, 00:33:30]


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