Roanoke family is 'home for the holidays' with Habitat house

Published: Dec. 2, 2016 at 5:57 PM EST
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Sheila and Jose Mercado haven't even moved into their new Roanoke house, but this home is already full of memories.

They've put in more than 700 "sweat equity" hours side-by-side with 150 volunteers working with Habitat for Humanity.

"I can't even believe we're here," Sheila Mercado said. "I can't believe we have it. We've worked so hard. We've prayed so hard, and now it's real."

It's been a long road to Roanoke for the Mercado family. Originally from Mexico, Jose Mercado was working on multi-million dollar houses -- but living in an apartment -- when the housing industry collapsed in 2009.

They've dreamed of the extra space and security their own home would bring, and they put their own mark on nearly every foot of the 3-bedroom structure.

"This cabinet," Sheila says of the built-in bookcase, "My daughter and I worked on it [for] I don't even know how many hours."

Some of the Habitat volunteers came to the Mercados housewarming Friday, bringing well wishes and a Christmas wreath.

"We're really glad to have them here," neighbor Alfreider Stevens said of the Orange Ave. house that used to belong to her own family member. "I just can't believe it. It's unbelievable to see this house come up so beautiful."

"Nobody is ever sleeping in a car again," Sheila Mercado said. "Nobody's going to be in a shelter again. Nobody's going to be on the floor of a dirty old motel again. My kids are always going to have a home. My grandkids are always going to have a home. Nobody is ever going to do without again."

The Mercados are making mortgage payments to Habitat for Humanity, but they plan to "pay it forward" with future volunteer hours too. Jose Mercado says he's going to spend time sharing his carpentry knowledge with other volunteer crews.