Renee has overcome hardship after hardship, and her resilience and determination to provide for her family is inspiring to all. Renee and her children have been living in their home since 2012, and there is truly no other way to describe Renee's feelings than "blessed."
Renee grew up in New Jersey, where she went to Community College proceeded by moving to South Carolina to pursue her love for culinary arts and restaurant management. Renee has always been a go-getter, so nothing could get in the way of her following her dreams. Once she received her degree, she was offered a job working for Marriot in Chicago. Renee packed her bags and once she arrived, she met the man who would soon become the father of her three children. After finding out that she was pregnant with their oldest child, they decided to move back to New Jersey, where she then had two of her children.
Renee was on her own and was trying to find the most affordable and practical housing for her family. Renee and her children moved back to Illinois in order to give her kids the best life that she could. They moved around a lot, but specifically Renee recalls that there was a time that the family of four was living in a loft with inadequate air conditioning, barely any windows, mold, and overall a bad living space for her kids. This is when her son, Charlie, started acting out. Renee knew that the only hope for her family to start getting a firm foundation, was to find a home for her kids to feel safe and secure.
Renee was looking at many options, but she could not afford rent for an apartment that would fulfill all of their needs. She resorted to borrowing a friend’s computer to research programs that would provide her family affordable housing, and she found Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity. Renee called the affiliate’s office, and she asked when the next orientation meeting would be. Initially, she felt very intimidated, but she sent in her application and was approved! Right away, Renee describes the love and support of the staff and other homeowners, as they would watch her kids so she could do the sweat equity hours required for her to receive her home. All of the homeowners are required to attend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which teaches the homeowners how to manage their finances. Renee says that because of this program, she is now excited to budget and pay her bills, and how much that has positively influenced her life today.
Renee recalls a moment when she was in queue that she read in the newspaper that Fox Valley Habitat had acquired two houses, one being on Michigan Ave in Aurora. Immediately, her thoughts went back to her time working with Marriot. Before moving to Chicago, the only thing she knew of was Michigan Ave, where the Marriot was located. Renee drove by the houses and told herself, “I am going to live here.” One night after a Financial Peace University seminar, Fox Valley Habitat CEO, Jeff Barrett, called her into his office and he told her that one of the houses on Michigan Ave was going to be hers. Renee said that this was the moment that everything felt like it was going to fall into place.
As of February 2012, Renee and her children have lived in that home. Renee describes Charlie’s thoughts, that “having a house is so special because it makes him feel safe and secure. It is his favorite place to be,” and she states that all of her children feel this way. Her family is now able to have pets, and they currently have a dog and two cats. Her kids now constantly talk about their pets, and that they are very proud of that aspect of their life. While yes, her kids now live in a safe and secure home, but Renee is also graced with that same security. Renee says that she “went from surviving and is moving towards thriving,” and that is exactly what Habitat is about. Renee has been able to give her children a place to grow up, a place of security, and the ability to tend to her children’s needs. When it comes down to it, Renee describes, “I want the best for my kids. The best is not a brand new BMW, but it is a place to live, make memories, and grow together.”