The icy roads of the holiday season did not deter Saul Santiago from starting his family on a journey to a better life. Four days before Christmas in 2005, Santiago, his wife, Glendalys Laboy, and their daughter, Meryliana, then 3, headed west from Illinois.
“It was starting to become like a war zone,” Santiago said of Chicago Heights, the city about 30 miles south of Chicago in which they were living. “That’s not what I wanted my daughter to be around.”
His brother, who was living in the Corvallis-Philomath area, lured him by extolling the region as a wonderful place to raise a family with great schools. “This was like the Promise Land compared with Illinois,” Santiago said.
But a Promised Land with a major staple of the American dream missing – home ownership. “I never dreamed of owning a home,” said Santiago, a tree pruner with the City of Corvallis, whose family now includes a son, Joshua Saul, 6. “I always figured I’d be renting for the rest of my life. Benton Habitat made it possible.”
And helping Benton Habitat for Humanity to make his family’s dream come true were providers and staff from The Corvallis Clinic Philomath Family Medicine, who recently spent half a day digging a trench for the house’s water line.
Physician Assistant Diane Greenblatt, who organized the effort at Philomath Family Medicine, had participated in the Habitat Women Build event in May. Women Build is Habitat for Humanity’s program for women who want to learn construction skills and build homes and communities.
“I had such an amazing experience I thought it would be a great idea for our clinic to do,” she said.
Santiago and his family are scheduled to move in next spring.