BY MARC HARGETT
For Chandi and Shawndi Lawton the American dream of homeownership began over five years ago when they turned in paperwork with San Gorgonio Pass Area Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit faith-based organization dedicated to helping families.
The family dedicated hundreds of hours of their time to the project, completing mounds of paperwork and fulfilling financial requirements.
All of that hard work finally paid off on July 26, when the family received the keys to their very own home during a dedication ceremony.
“We have never owned a home. We have never had time to stop and own a home,” says Chandi Lawton, who is in the Army Reserves and has moved because of deployments. “We have a place to come home to.”
Lawton is also a security guard with the Banning Unified School District.
Throughout the years-long process, volunteers with Habitat for Humanity were able to spend time with the family and get to know them.
Mark Hodnick, president of the SGPA board of directors, who developed a friendship the Lawtons through the process, said this was a wonderful family.
“We were so happy to give them the American dream of home ownership,” said Hodnick.
The mid-morning dedication began with prayer and a presentation of the colors by the Pass Blue Skies Area Girl Scouts followed by presentations made to the family.
The family was bestowed several house-warming gifts, including a Bible, a hand-sewn quilt stitched by members of the Pass Quilters and a red rose bush that was intended to represent the “blood, sweat and tears” that were invested into the building of the home.
Local leaders and politicians from across the region were also on hand to celebrate with the Lawton family as they celebrated their new home.
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt and members of his team were present.
Most of the members of the Banning city council were present to congratulate the family.
Councilwoman Colleen Wallace raved about the family moving into the district she represents.
“They are going to be a big asset to our side of town,” the councilwoman says. “I’m happy to see they got it.”
Several family and friends were also there to honor the dedication of the home.
Longtime friend and former high school football rival Mickey Valdivia was pleased that the Lawtons were chosen for this home.
“Habit for Humanity nailed the vetting process with this family,” said Valdivia, who works with Chandi Lawton at the school district. “They got it right on this one.”
He added that the Lawton family is a humble and well-deserving family.
Unlike most routes to homeownership where a family puts a down payment, fills out paperwork and waits 30 days, the Lawtons also had to invest hundreds of hours of physical labor to the process.
“It took a lot of sweat equity,” says Chandi Lawton who, along with his family, put in well over 200 hours of backbreaking labor for the project.
Those hours of grueling physical labor were made up of clearing rocks from the property, digging trenches and painting.
But they were not alone as they worked toward their goal of homeownership.
“A lot of people helped us to get here,” he says, speaking of the scores of people who volunteered and sponsored the project.
There were plenty of people recognized for their involvement in the process of helping the Lawton family achieve their dreams of owning their home.
Many of those involved in the process to help Lawton family achieve homeownership were on hand to celebrate this momentous accomplishment.
“The people who are doing good are here,” Councilman David Happe says of the community involvement in the project. “The community is doing something positive.”
During the home dedication, a banner was hung with the names of those dedicated volunteers and sponsors deemed the “Habitat Angels.”
The family was chosen based on their level of need, the willingness to participate in the project and their ability to repay a mortgage through an affordable payment plan.