The Ruiz Family
To Maria Ruiz, Topeka Habitat is more than just an agency—it’s family. Maria has been a Habitat Homeowner for two years and says the team at Topeka Habitat gave her the help, confidence, and support she needed to be a successful first-time homeowner.
Maria moved to Kansas when she was 12. She was in foster care and grew up in a small town south of Topeka. After graduating from high school she got a degree in early childhood development from Washburn Tech. She works as an administrative assistant for a Topeka non-profit agency that advocates for other local non-profits.
Maria knew about Topeka Habitat for Humanity through her employer. She and her two young children had been living in a small 2-bed, 1-bath rental home with no insulation, in a neighborhood with a high crime rate. After a drive-by shooting occurred near her home, she knew she had to find better housing for her family.
She started her journey to home ownership by attending “Topeka Opportunity to Own” classes through Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., (HCCI). The staff at HCCI recommended Maria apply to be a Habitat homeowner and she contacted Topeka Habitat to learn more. She applied in October 2017, was accepted later that year, and ground was broken on her house in February 2018. Maria helped with the construction when she was not working at her job, and went to see the build site with her children nearly every day. Maria completed many of her 300 required “sweat equity” hours at the Topeka Habitat ReStore. Maria is fluent in Spanish and her bi-lingual skills helped make the ReStore more accessible to the Spanish-speaking community in Topeka.
Maria’s favorite part of her home is the fact that the kitchen, living room, and dining room make up one big family room. She picked out all the paint colors and cabinets herself. She also designed a pantry that fits in the stairway—an element which is now part of the design for all new Topeka Habitat homes. Once her home was finished, it took Maria a “very long time” to hang anything on the walls because they were so nice and new that she did not want to “mess them up.” After her family was moved in and settled, Maria invited the Topeka Habitat Staff over and treated them to a traditional Mexican dinner.
Maria loves Topeka Habitat for Humanity and credits them with giving her a lot of confidence to continue to grow personally. She has gone on to participate in leadership courses offered through Habitat and other community organizations. She is an advocate and champion for Topeka through various efforts such as GO Topeka's Momentum 2022. Maria has begun to view herself as a leader in her community and has certainly been embraced as one.