It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up.

That’s the philosophy behind Habitat for Humanity, and it’s a philosophy celebrated Monday by the Clovis city council.

Three families were there, simply expecting to learn more about the non-profit’s application process.  Instead, all three learned their lives were about to change.

“We want to be the first to let you know,” said local Habitat CEO Matthew Grundy, “that you have been selected to be partners in the Rialto Ranch subdivision.  So all of your families will have homes soon,” he said to cheers. 

The families were not the only ones surprised.  Even the city council members had no idea that was coming.

“It’s like opening a present that you knew you’d never get,” said Prya Vang.  “Well, we finally got it.”

Vang, her husband and their three kids are one of the families that will soon build and move into their home.  She says they are ready to do more than just move in.

“Sometimes you have neighbors but don’t feel like a part of the community,” she said.  “We want to be part of a community.”

Grundy says getting selected is not an easy process for families, which have to meet three basic criteria to be considered.

“The first is need,” said Grundy.  “They need to be living in substandard living conditions.  The second is they need to be able to repay a loan.  And the third is willing to partner.  That means they have to put in their own sweat.  500 hours worth of work on their own homes.”

That building process is exactly what Mher Karapetyan is looking forward to.  For him, this literally is a dream come true.

“I dreamed about it all my life,” said Karapetyan, who will be moving into a house with a wife and son.  “So today I have the opportunity to build my own house.”

While others were crying happy tears, all Karapetyan could laugh.  Disbelief and gratitude take on different forms.

“No thanks from us would ever be enough, for what they’ve done for us,” said Vang.  “For what they’re allowing us to do.  Just thinking about it makes me teary eyed.  I just want to thank them so much.”