PORT TOWNSEND — When Rey Nila was 18 years old, he left his home in southern Mexico to come to the United States.
He knew no one here and had no contacts who could help him get a start in a new country.
Living in his truck was lonely, he said, but he had the feeling that one day he would be around nice people again.
On Sunday, Nila was surrounded by friends and well-wishers as he and wife, Maria, holding 10-month-old Chiara, and daughter Cindy, 12, broke ground for one of three new houses being built on 20th Street in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County.
The others are being built by Debbie Thetford and her family, and Amy Milne and son Denver, 4.
Thetford, whose grandmother’s family were Sequim pioneers, has two children, Jeremiah, 9, and Rhapsody, 4, and another on the way.
“This is a neighborhood with lots of kids,” Thetford said. “I am grateful that they will have the opportunity like other kids to have their own house.”
The day’s ceremonies started on 21st Street, where friends of Francisca Lanphear and her children, ages 2 to 14, came to see her receive the keys to the five-bedroom house she built with Habitat’s help.
Project partners Jean Andrianoff and Karen Burge presented Lanphear with photos of the house under construction and other gifts.
“Today is a dream come true,” Lanphear said, thanking all those who worked on the house, brought hot food for the workers on cold days or supported Habitat and its store.
Lanphear’s pastor, Rebekah Wolff of Beacon Light Center in Port Hadlock, gave the prayer of dedication, and Lanphear’s children sang a song about building your house on rock, not sand.
At the groundbreaking a block over, the Rev. Wendell Ankeny, a former Habitat board member, noted that when he first came to Port Townsend, Habitat had just built its first house, and now has completed 22, with three more on the way.
Ankeny offered a prayer in English and Burge read a prayer in Spanish written by Father John Topel of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
After talking his experience coming to the United States, Rey Nila said he would do anything for the place that has become a home.
“I feel like in this community we are all family together,” Nila said.
“Thank you for giving me a chance to be around nice people.”
For more information about Habitat for Humanity of East Jefferson County, call 360-379-2827.
Port Townsend/Jefferson County Reporter-Columnist Jennifer Jackson can be reached at 360-379-5688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.