An Ashland Rotary group was recently on hand when 50 families in rural Guanajuato received the keys to their new houses, built with funds raised in Ashland.




For most families, the cement block houses were the first substantial dwelling they'd ever lived in or owned, and they built them with their own hands.




"This house means that my children's future is brighter," said Maria Elena Santos, a recepient of a new house. "They won't have to deal with the cold and the wet any more."




A cooperative effort between the Ashland Rotary Club and the Guanajuato Rotary Club, the program was completed in partnership with the Mexican government's "Mi Casa DIFerente" offices. A $900 contribution from Ashland is leveraged three times by the local, state and national governments to bring the total to $2,700, enough to provide the building materials for one house.




The Ashland Rotary Club's "Taste of Guanajuato" event last July raised $45,000, providing for 50 new homes completed at the end of March. Ashland Rotarians in Guanajuato for the celebration helped paint two of the houses bright pink, the designated color for Mi Casa DIFerente houses in 2008.




"This was the realization of a dream for me," said Rotarian Angelica Zavala Ruppe, co-chair of the "Taste of Guanajuato" event. "When I came to SOU many years ago from Guanajuato, I didn't ever want to forget my roots. With this project, we have helped change many people's lives in my home city."




All 50 families &

more than 400 people &

gathered in the village of El Varal to witness the keys being handed over by Mexican government officials and Ashland Rotary representatives Jerry Taylor, Deedie Runkel and Ruppe.




"What an incredible thrill to be there and see first-hand the huge difference our relatively small donations made in these people's lives," Taylor said.




The Ashland visitors brought housewarming presents for some of the families in the form of baskets filled with favorite kitchen and housekeeping items. Local dentist Dan Jackson tucked toothbrushes in for all the families.




The Ashland Rotary Club has pledged to extend the program to build an additional 20 houses over the next several months.




"We hope to augment what we've already done with Rotary International funds to construct community septic and water systems as well as playgrounds," said Juli DiChiro, co-chair of the Club's World Community Service Committee.