Family starts work on Habitat for Humanity home after losing trailer in tornado

Article from by Janae Francis, Standard Examiner Reporter.

Habitat for Humanity home in Ogden on Saturday, April 14, 2018.

JaNae Francis
JaNae Francis


OGDEN — Brenda Guzman was so excited to break ground for her family’s upcoming Habitat for Humanity home that she couldn’t keep her hard hat on.

The 13-year-old jumped onto her shovel several times, spilling her hat during a groundbreaking ceremony in a vacant lot at 450 15th St. in Ogden Saturday, April 14.

Brenda and her sister, Ariel Guzman, 15, said the hardships they’ve overcome living in a drafty trailer during the winter months were difficult and that they were very grateful to leave those problems behind.

“We would all go to the living room,” Ariel said, explaining how the family of seven coped on those cold nights. “The living room is the place that wasn’t so bad. We would all cover up in blankets together and try not to be cold.”

ground breaking ceremony

Sometime in early summer, all of those trials will be well behind the family of six children and a single mother when their new home should be complete.

The new home is expected to be one of four completed by about the end of the year by Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis Counties.

The house will be the 13th completed by the agency since it started in Ogden in 2002 and the first in a year of exponential growth for the organization.

This year the nonprofit will repair 100 homes in addition to building the four homes, said Jeannie Gamble, executive director of Habitat for Humanities of Weber and Davis Counties

Last year, the organization built two houses and completed 72 repair projects, she said.

Previous to last year, Gamble said, the nonprofit built about one house every 18 months and completed 10 to 14 repair jobs each year.

Related: Weber State student designs Habitat for Humanity house for fellow student

“Over the last two years, we have dramatically increased what we are doing in the area,” Gamble said.

Gamble took over the reins of the agency two years ago and has been growing the staff and its resources ever since, she said.

“We’re on a four-year accelerated growth plan,” she said. “We want to be rocking and rolling within two more years.”

She defined her goals over the next two years as recruiting a full-time staff of 25 or more, compared to a staff of 13 now. Two years ago, she said the organization mostly was run by volunteers.

Gamble also plans to open another Restore — the agency’s home improvement thrift stores — in Davis County. It already has one on Wall Avenue in Ogden.

Related: Ogden’s Habitat for Humanity ReStore officially opens for business

“We want to be building as many homes as we can and repairing as many as we can,” Gamble said.

Those involved said their efforts will improve the lives of many more than those families directly served.

“We really notice that as we build, other neighbors clean up,” said Kent Jorgenson, resource development officer for Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis Counties. “It just kind of revitalizes and kind of makes the whole neighborhood improve.”

The ceremony Saturday included a prayer by Tim Taylor, a member of the organization’s board of directors.

He asked for divine help for the family and expressed gratitude for volunteers willing to serve them.

As the Guzmans dug into the ground Saturday morning, the children discovered an old, buried wrench and what looked to be a piece of pipe.

“Isn’t that a sign of good luck when they dig and find artifacts?” Taylor asked.

Such luck is a contrast to the type the family appears to have experienced in the past.

In September of 2016, a rare Utah tornado touched down and took the roof off their trailer in Riverdale.

Aurora Guzman, the mother, already had faced hardships in repairing the home, according to information released by Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis Counties.

With no money to fix the home after the tornado, the family was forced to split up. Aurora Guzman took care of her youngest four children in a hotel room until she could afford to fix her trailer, according to the news release.

Guzman family and girls
Photo taken by Dave Brewer from

With the Saturday groundbreaking for a future home provided to the family, Aurora Guzman said she was happy knowing she and her children soon would be more secure.

Facing economic challenges even before her trailer lost its roof, Aurora Guzman had set out to make extra money to feed her family and pay rent by making and selling food, starting a sewing business and babysitting, according to the news release.

Previously, she had lived in small apartments with her children. She had twice been evicted, reportedly because of complaints of having too many children in a small apartment, according to the news release.

Related: After $6,000 in tools were stolen from Habitat site, community steps up to help

Some of her children had lived apart during those times too, the children said.

The 500 hours of “sweat equity” the family will have to provide in order to receive their new home did not seem to be a sacrifice for them Saturday.

Aurora Guzman’s oldest son, Abraham Guzman, 20, spoke to Matt Alexander, assistant manager at the Ogden Restore, about the next time he’d be able to work at the store that sells donated items and raises money for the local Habitat for Humanity.

Brenda and Ariel talked about their opportunities to work in the Habitat for Humanity office.

Dixie Story, office manager at Habitat for Humanity of Weber and Davis Counties, teased them about the work involved in helping to build the house.

When the family was breaking ground, Story hollered in jest: “You only have to go 12 more feet down and 37 feet wide,” she said referring to the size of their future basement. “We’ll check on you tomorrow morning.”

Story later explained to the Standard-Examiner that she was having fun when she made the comments and that usually, families receiving houses put in far more than 500 hours in helping volunteers to build their homes.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or on Facebook at


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