Like most mothers, Jamie O'Brien cautions her children, Jayden and Kaydence, and their friends to be careful to not drop cake on the carpet of her new house.

Even before moving in, O'Brien had a lot invested in her new home - 350 hours spent helping build it.

On Saturday, Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity held a dedication ceremony for O'Brien and her family, commemorating their move into the three-bedroom in Fountain. The house was built by O'Brien and the group's volunteers.

A lighting specialist with Peak Lighting during the workweek and a construction worker building her home on Saturdays, O'Brien had little time or energy to do fun stuff with her children once Sunday rolled around. Despite the missed opportunities to go to Skate City or the zoo, she said, her kids remained her biggest supporters.

"Initially I didn't think I could do it," she said. "I didn't, I was like this is a lot, this is overwhelming. Am I capable? Am I worthy? God walked me through it, and my kids were my biggest supporters."

O'Brien and her children had been living in transitional housing the past five years through Colorado Springs affordable housing nonprofit Greccio Housing. O'Brien first had a one-bedroom apartment with three beds side by side and a pair of dressers. She upgraded to a two-bedroom apartment, then to a two-bedroom home, where she shared a room with her daughter.

There were days, O'Brien admits, she didn't want to work on the house but was encouraged by the volunteers and Habitat's sense of community.

Current and future homeowners helped by Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity attended the dedication ceremony. Habitat is made up of a diverse group of people, including refugees and other immigrants, all of whom are required to help in the building of their home.

Instead of a mortgage in which homeowners pay a certain percentage of the price upfront, Habitat for Humanity asks for $1,000 and a "sweat equity" buy-in, CEO Kris Medina says.

Medina said O'Brien had to put in 250 hours of work and have friends and relatives also volunteer over the 10 months it usually takes to build a home.

Prospective homeowners are required to take 10 classes, including landscaping and estate planning.

Asked what the most challenging aspect of building her home was, O'Brien began to say that it was the digging and heavy lifting involved in installing a French drain, then halted midsentence.

"No, no, the most challenging thing I did was accept the fact that I was worthy of this program," she said. "And I overcame it, I am worthy and look at where I am today. The kids have really stuck by me, they're proud of me and that's probably the biggest reward."

A rambunctious and rebellious pre-teen, O'Brien left home at age 12 after repeatedly butting heads with her mother's boyfriend. With her father in prison, O'Brien was homeless for eight years, bouncing around from friends' homes to sleeping on park benches and in laundromats.

Her mother took her back in at age 20 when she got pregnant with her son. "At 21 I had my son, and that's when my family really began," she said.

Years later, she settled in Fountain after receiving treatment for alcoholism. After rehab, she regained custody of her son and daughter with Greccio's help.

Now that they are in their new home, O'Brien intends to spend more time with her kids. They intend to go camping, barbecue for the neighbors and fix up their house.

"We're gonna go camping, we're gonna build. Maybe a carport, maybe landscape the backyard, there's so much to be done," O'Brien said. "Certainly we're going to paint. My daughter is very artistic, and she wants the shed to be her art studio.

"(I'm) not so keen on that yet, but I think I might invest in a second shed."

To volunteer for Pikes Peaks Habitat for Humanity, go to pikespeakhabitat.org

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