Five years after closing on her Habitat-built home, Ambera Pruitt talks about how homeownership has reshaped her life
Photos of family and friends adorn the walls and shelves of most homes, and Ambera Pruitt’s house is no different. You’ll find pictures of her two growing daughters, her mom and her sisters. But you’ll also find a photo of Ambera with group of strangers who came together five years ago to, quite literally, help build the house she now calls home.
That home – and 22 others like it – was part of the 2018 Habitat for Humanity Jimmy & Roslynn Carter Work Project in Mishawaka, Indiana. A few months after the home was built, on Oct. 18, Ambera signed her closing documents and officially became a homeowner.
“I can’t believe it’s been five years already,” Pruitt said. “I’m the first in my family to own a home, and it’s a brand new house.”
U.S. Bank employees were among the volunteers working on Pruitt’s home that week in Mishawaka five years ago (as well as the most recent Carter Work Project build a few weeks ago in Charlotte). In addition to sweat equity, U.S. Bancorp Impact Finance invested more than $120 million in New Market Tax Credit equity in Habitat affiliates nationwide for affordable homeownership projects, helping to create over 1,250 units.
The pride Pruitt has in her home is palpable, as is the pride she has in her own abilities as a homeowner, the relationships she’s nurtured in her neighborhood and the security owning a home has meant for her family.
“I’ll tell the girls all the time, I built these walls or I put the siding on that house,” said Pruitt, who put in her own sweat equity as a volunteer, helping with construction of her two-story, three-bedroom, colonial-style home.
“If we take down the cabinets, I have all the signatures there,” she said, referencing how the U.S. Bank volunteers wrote notes of support on the unfinished walls before the kitchen cabinets went up.
“Investing in communities is core to who we are and what we do every day, but we don’t always get to see the longer-term impact of our work in such a personal way,” said Bill Carson, senior business development officer with U.S. Bancorp Impact Finance. “Reconnecting with Ambera and hearing about her life today – after working alongside her on her home five years ago – is so gratifying. It reminds me why we do this work.”
An important part of being a Habitat owner is the support provided to new homebuyers – both financial education and home ownership basics.
Pruitt marveled at her own abilities.
“The wind caught our back screen door and it snapped. And I fixed it,” she said. “I fix screen doors now. That’s really what I love about Habitat. They don’t just put you in a house and say ‘Figure it out.’ They teach you how to be a homeowner. Sometimes I really can’t believe this is mine. I love coming home.”
Pruitt’s neighborhood has changed in five years. More homes have been built and a park added. The final blacktop on the street was just laid.
“I remember them telling us we’ll get final blacktop in five years, and now it’s here,” she said. “New neighbors have moved in. When I look at the neighborhood, it’s just beautiful.”
Pruitt said she knows everyone in the neighborhood, crediting their shared Habitat connection. She’s the leader of their neighborhood watch group. And because Mishawaka doesn’t have school bus transportation for the district, Pruitt bought a minivan to help with the neighborhood school carpool.
“I love it because I know them all. I’ve never had that – I never spoke to my neighbors before, we never had a chance to know each other,” Pruitt said, adding that renting often means moving a lot and never being in one place long enough to put down roots. Now her neighbors also keep an eye on her place if she’s away.
“That’s something new – we have money to visit and go places,” she said. “Before Habitat, as a renter, rent was always going up. My mortgage has never been even close to how much my rent was. It’s a financial relief.”
Pruitt beams with pride for what this home means for her family and the security homeownership has provided. Five years ago, when construction was underway, she hoped to be able to move in by Thanksgiving.
“With U.S. Bank’s help, we had an awesome first Thanksgiving in our home,” said Pruitt, who has hosted all the family Thanksgiving dinners since, sometimes with up to 20 people.
“We have a big family, lots of nieces and nephews. There’s space for dad, me, my mom, my sisters. And I have two bathrooms,” she said with a laugh. “No one else in the family has two bathrooms, so we host it.”
The security of homeownership meant not having to worry when her job as a graphic artist went remote during the COVID-19 pandemic. It meant having space to add two dogs to the family. It means her youngest daughter Azaylia, 9, can stay in one school and school district without moving around. And it means Pruitt was ready with an answer when her oldest daughter Charity, 12, asked if she could come back and live in the house after college.
“I said, ‘You can live here forever.’”
Pruitt began marking a wall in the basement to measure the height of her daughters several times a year. Seeing the growth spurts sometimes takes her by surprise.
“My youngest grew five inches from March to August, and I was showing her, ‘This was you, Azaylia.’ We’ll always have that,” Pruitt said. “These are memories that we’ll have forever because this our forever home.”
Around 80 employee volunteers worked alongside the homeowner, a husband and father of three
U.S. Bank helped develop a financing structure that has made homeownership possible for thousands of people.
We partner with organizations such as Veterans Community Project to provide housing for veterans in need.
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