As you walk into the home of Mary and Gary Gray, our first Habitat Partner family, you have the immediate feeling of warmth, happiness and true “family”. We wanted to share this amazing story of their journey with Habitat and the extraordinary changes and opportunities that presented themselves after becoming Habitat for Humanity affordable homeowners.
It was in 1994 when Mary saw a Habitat brochure at a local bank, calling out for volunteers. Mary was an RN by profession but at that time was taking care of her nine children. Gary who had spent years in accounting made the move into the trucking industry and was a truck driver. They were renting a very small semi-detached with certainly not enough bedrooms to accommodate their family. The older boys, Gary Jr, Michael, David, and Daniel along with James shared a room. Lisa and Krista shared a room and Mary and Gary had John and Pearl, who were in cribs at the time, with them in the 3rd bedroom.
According to Gary, “we are a very close family and the thought of moving into a Habitat home meant we would have more room for our family to live fruitful lives.”Gary also said “at that time, rents were constantly increasing and we were never able to stay in one home long enough to let us become part of a community”.
After reading the brochure from the bank, Mary immediately contacted Habitat to volunteer and during the course of her interview, the volunteers meeting with her suggested she would be a strong candidate to become a Habitat partner family. And so this inspirational story begins.
Because Mary and Gary’s mortgage payments were calculated to make living “affordable”, the children had opportunities they could have never imagined. Gary Jr is an A-1 Mechanic, Michael is an Environmental Scientist, and David is a Health and Safety Specialist – all three now reside in Alberta. Daniel is a Landscape Architect currently working in Hamilton. The younger siblings (there are 20 years between Pearl and Gary Jr) have also done very well for themselves; James is an Electrical Engineer, Lisa is a stay-at-home mom (with two young children) and a budding artist, while Krista, an RN and her husband own their own business. John, who has Down Syndrome is currently working at Arc Industries and Torchlight Industries. John takes the bus to work everyday! Their youngest, Pearl, is attending Conestoga College. And “la piece de resistance”, Mary and Gary paid off their mortgage in 2008!
This happy family has fond memories and respect for Habitat for Humanity and they used the “hand up” they received to take their lives to the highest levels. Mary and Gary are proud of their nine children and twelve grandchildren.