'My dad didn't want to divide the family'

      EUGENE, Ore. - While working summers in the United States, Roberto Garcia realized his family of 11 would have many more opportunities if they moved out of Mexico.

      "Dad was having a hard time keeping up with all the expenses and trying to send us all to school," said Garcia's daughter Leticia Simmons.

      He started legally bringing family members across the border two and three at a time until the whole family was in Oregon.

      Roberto then faced the problem of finding a home for the whole family to share.

      "We kept moving because the places were so small, and my dad didn't want to divide the family," Leticia said.

      Roberto Garcia said the family avoided eviction by hiding his kids in the closet when the landlord came over. His daughter, Lorena Garcia, remembers having to sneak into the house at night to keep the family together.

      "It was very difficult and very unsure to have a status or anything because the first thing we need was a home," said Lorena.

      Roberto's oldest son found out about the Habitat For Humanity program and the Garcia's applied for a home in 1994.

      The family managed to stay together, thanks to the Habitat For Humanity program.

      "We were all excited and for the first time thinking maybe it's going to be possible to have a house," Simmons said.

      "The selection process is based on three criteria, the need for housing, the ability to pay for that housing through a zero percent interest no profit mortgage, and for the willingness to partner with habitat for humanity through the contribution of their own time and energy in what we call sweat equity," said Don Griffin, a spokesperson for Habitat For Humanity.

      The Garcia's were approved and set to work building the house that would give the family stability.

      "I think the house is most important in the life because it's the base for the family," Roberto Garcia said.

      In June, the Garcia family will be the first Lane County residents to pay off their Habitat For Humanity home.

      "We are so happy because now we feel like we are responsible for my father and my mother and we think now we are for sure they have their own house," said Lorena Garcia. "If Habitat didn't help us maybe we don't have a house, because it was very difficult for nine people to have a house."

      "This is what it's all about, providing a decent affordable home for the long haul for a family to help them grow and nurture their children to be rooted in the community and have an opportunity to have a safe place for their elder years," said Griffin.