It was a typical Saturday afternoon in Tacoma: gray skies released light rain that covered North Anderson Street as neighbors, volunteers, and loved ones gathered to celebrate in the quaint gray house that had sat there for more than 100 years.
However, the day was anything but typical because that afternoon, the old gray house became a home. The Kiniu-Gacini family, originally from Kenya, became proud homeowners under gray skies on that Saturday afternoon on what they called a “very glad, glad day in our lives.”
The home had been all but condemned when Bank of America donated it to Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity to be revitalized as part of the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) program.
“It’s great to be a part of this celebration today,” said Bank of America Senior Vice President Community Relations Manager Michael J. Dotson.
The partnership with Bank of America began long before The Kiniu-Gacini family partnered with Habitat. “Bank of America and Habitat for Humanity have enjoyed a 25 year partnership that’s consisted of our philanthropic giving as well as volunteering,” Dotson said, adding that Bank of America employees worldwide have volunteered more than 30,000 hours annually with Habitat for Humanity, along with donating more than 22 million dollars since 2002 to support Habitat’s mission to build safe, decent, affordable housing.
Dotson stood among the dozens gathered in the house to celebrate with the family, and on behalf of Bank of America, he shared one simple message: “Congratulations!”
The Kiniu-Gacini family never failed to stop smiling during the nearly hour-long celebration. They said that working with Habitat seemed “…too good to be true.”
Mr. Gacini shared his impression upon seeing the home for the first time prior to its rehabbing, “We just came, and we saw the house in that state.” Those who were gathered for the celebration erupted into laughter, knowing exactly what he meant. He added that revitalizing his own home taught him something, “There is always the best in you.”
When a family partners with Habitat for Humanity, they commit 500 hours of sweat equity into their home, or another home being completed by Habitat.
“There’s no discrimination, I can assure you,” Mr. Gacini said, “The sweat equity, there is beauty in working with these people – you don’t get tired.”
His wife, Mrs. Kiniu, addressed the crowded gathering in her new living room, her face beaming with hope, “We feel loved and privileged to work with you guys.” Mrs. Kiniu stood by her husband and children’s side as she thanked everyone involved, “I didn’t know Bank of America had contributed that much. On behalf of my family, I want to say thank you and may you continue that good work, God bless you all.”
The Kiniu-Gacini family credits Habitat for Humanity as an inspiration to continuously lead a life of service to others, “I believe we are going to give back to the community…we are a part of you,” said Mr. Gacini, “Thank you, each of you, you are so important in our lives.”