Fort Bend Habitat for Humanity helps families achieve dream of home ownership

By Joe Southern

FBHabitatByron and Lauren Bimage were living a normal suburban life in Fresno when in 2012 they found out Lauren was pregnant with their second child.

When the pregnancy caused Lauren to become bedridden, it cost her employment and some much needed income.

“We weren’t financially able to stay in our home,” she said.

They lost the house and had to move in with relatives. It wasn’t an ideal situation for the growing family. Last year Lauren came across a Facebook page for Fort Bend Habitat for Humanity. She contacted the organization and they invited the Bimages to attend an orientation session last June.

“It was intimidating,” she said. “I bet there were 15 to 20 families there.”

Undaunted, she put in her family’s application and prayed. There were only a couple houses coming ready and a lot of competition for them.

“Our prayers were actually answered,” Lauren said.

The Bimages were chosen for a new three-bedroom house in Richmond.

“By Christmas we were in a home,” Lauren said. “It was the best Christmas ever!”

As Byron and Lauren and their two daughters, Brooklyn, 8, and Brie, 2, were moving into the house, they were preparing to welcome a new family member. In October, Lauren gave birth to their third daughter, Baylor.

On top of all of that, Lauren was applying for a job with the Attorney General’s office in Missouri City. They wanted to hire her but had to inform her that the office was moving from Missouri City to Richmond – less than a mile from their new home.

“You just don’t know how things are going to progress,” Byron said. “It’s such a welcoming experience to know someone actually wants to help you.”

Byron has been employed with Home Depot for nine years. In that time he has seen plenty of supplies sold for Habitat for Humanity, never suspecting that one day they might be for his own home.

As participants in Habitat for Humanity, they are required to perform 350 hours of “sweat equity” in the construction of Habitat homes. Family and friends can contribute up to 100 of those hours, but at least 250 must be provided by the program participants.

Since their house was nearly complete when they were chosen, the Bimages worked primarily on the house next door and another a few blocks away.

Byron said he enjoyed working on the homes because he not only got to meet his new neighbors and make friends, but he also learned a lot about construction along the way.

“When we came out to do the build, everyone there actually wanted to share knowledge,” he said.

Lauren worked while pregnant and continued to work just weeks after having an emergency C-section with Baylor. She even popped a stitch while working on a home. Lauren acted like it was a minor inconvenience.

“You feel like you really should be out there,” she said. “You really want to get back out there. You want to fulfill that commitment.”

Byron said he was impressed with the entire process.

“From a slab to a full house, it’s amazing to see,” he said.

Another added benefit is the classes Habitat for Humanity provides for new homeowners. Everyone is required to take a finance class. There are optional ones for different aspects of owning and caring for a home.

“They’re teaching you to be homeowners,” Byron said. “They’re teaching you everything about your home.”

Betty Braun, who handles marketing for the organization, said a lot of people are unaware of the local organization.

‘They don’t realize that Fort Bend has its own Habitat for Humanity,” she said. “They think we’re part of Houston.”

Braun said if anyone wants to help, in addition to making financial donations they can buy and donate items at the agency’s ReStore in Stafford (13570 Murphy Road). If they want to volunteer labor building houses, they can visit to learn more.

Executive Director Sherwin Sun said Habitat for Humanity always has needs to be met.

“Right now we’re trying to find affordable land. That will be our focus for the next year or so,” he said.

Once the Bimages complete their obligations of sweat equity and class instruction, they will sign a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that is interest free. That will keep payments around $400 to $600 a month.

Lauren said they love their new community, neighbors and school for their daughters. They have also become involved with the local YMCA.

“It’s a beautiful community,” she said. “We fell in love with it.”

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