by: SUSAN MATHENY/THE PIONEER - At work in the Madras Habitat Restore are Geraldine, 12, Gabriel, 21, and Esperanza Hernandex, 13, with their mom Candida DeSosa.Candida DeSosa and her family have been chosen as the recipients for Jefferson County Habitat’s house No. 18.

A groundbreaking for what will be Habitat’s first stick-built house in several years, was held June 30. The past several years, it has been more economical for Habitat to buy and remodel existing homes than build one.

DeSosa has had multiple problems to deal with, but now her life is on track and she’s eager to have a permanent home for her daughters, Geraldine Hernandez, 12, Esperanza Hernandez, 13, and son, Gabriel Hernandez, 21, who now works for Job Corps.

Interviewed at the Habitat Restore, where she has put in her sweat-equity hours, DeSosa said she didn’t think she would qualify for a Habitat house.

But once she applied and was accepted, she said, “Everything changed instantly. I won’t have to rent anymore, we won’t have to move again, and we’ll have stability.”

In the past, DeSosa had problems with alcoholism. She grew up in Sacramento, Calif., in a stable family, and said it wasn’t anything her parents did. She was just prone to alcoholism and made poor choices.

“The first time I got sober, I went to school to be a drug and alcohol counselor and counseled in the field for three years. But then I relapsed and started drinking again,” she said.

She held things together for a year, but eventually the children were given to her parents as her life continued to spiral downward due to her drinking. For a while, she was even living homeless in Sacramento.

In 2005, her parents Milton and Geri DeSosa, and the children moved to Madras to farm on Agency Plains.

Candida DeSosa and her husband had split up, with him moving back to Mexico. So, in 2006, her parents let the kids go to Mexico to visit their dad, but he wouldn’t let them come back for 4 1/2 years.

In the meantime, DeSosa got sober again and moved to Madras in 2007. “I started going to Living Hope Christian Center and am an avid member of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was baptized, and the kids were home nine months later. I had to fight for custody internationally,” she said.

She has now been sober for six years, and her life has turned around.

“The church has supported me, and Pastor Jim Leach and his wife Becky are kind and compassionate people,” she said.

She is a leader in the Celebrate Recovery group the church sponsors, and said Pastor Leach has taught her patience, balance, and respect for authority.

“Where I was before, I was in charge of my world, and that didn’t work so well,” she admitted, adding, “Now, I seek counsel for everything I do.

She is also learning how to be a parent again and said a parenting class she attended really helped. Her daughter, Esperanza, is a special needs child with chronic heart problems, which have required several heart surgeries.

Helping with the children is her significant other Vaughn Huffman. “He works at Kah-Nee-Ta and is great with the kids,” she said, noting, “He is good to me and my daughters.”

DeSosa’s parents have provided lots of support, along with her Habitat family sponsor Katie Meredith. “The skills she’s taught me and things that have helped with the kids have been phenomenal,” she said.

Already, DeSosa has completed over 100 hours at the Habitat ReStore, but said she keeps working there because she loves it.

“I also help at Celebrate Recovery whenever I can because it’s not all about me anymore. It’s about what I can do to give back,” she said.

After coming to Madras, DeSosa returned to school and completed her Associate of Arts degree at Central Oregon Community College, and is now a full-time student at Oregon State University-Cascades.

“I’m 72 percent done with my bachelor’s degree in science with a minor in psychology," she said.

Her hope is to attend Portland State University to get a master’s degree in counseling and work in the Christian counseling field.

With her family back together, a Habitat house on the horizon, and the support of her church and family, DeSosa is excited about the future.

“It will be really nice to start a new chapter in our lives with stability,” she said.

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