Erika Zavala and her five children were reduced to sleeping in tents when their home burned down the Friday before Spring Break.
Saturday, however, the children streamed in and out of their brand new three-bedroom home, carrying waters and other supplies for a celebration. As Hidalgo County Pct. 3 Commissioner Joe Flores and members of the community gathered outside, Zavala’s children taped a sign to the front of the house thanking everyone, particularly Flores and a builder named Ted Snavely, who were instrumental in putting a new roof over the family’s heads.
“It’s the first day we’re going to be in there. We’ve started decorating and everything,” said Erika Garcia, Zavala’s 16-year-old daughter. “It’s a new start. It’s a new life, practically everything’s going to start all over again.”
Garcia said her mom was at a school meeting at about 6 in the evening with Garcia’s 13-year-old sister when the fire sparked. It started in Zavala’s bedroom, where Garcia’s 9-year-old sister Kettzya Garcia was asleep. She smelled smoke and her hair had been singed, but she awoke in time to alert the rest of the family and everyone made it out of the house.
Still, they’d lost everything. They slept in tents and someone loaned the family a camper to live in on the property, located on Buena Fe Street north of Mission.
Flores said he received calls about the fire from elementary school teachers at La Joya Independent School District. Members of his staff also saw posts on Facebook.
“It’s a lot different when you come over and really see it in person than when someone gives you a call,” Flores said. “We drove over here and we saw the kids running all over the place.”
He sent a member of his staff to buy new uniforms for the children, who were afraid they would get written up when they returned to school after Spring Break, and started on plans for the 980-square-foot house.
The commissioner’s office collected about $5,000 for the project from the community, and another $20,000 to build the new home came from his own funds. Rams Construction built the house. Snavely, Flores said, did the flooring, painted the house and bought the family furniture. Bazan Plumbing did the plumbing for the home and Jorge De La Garza donated countertops and cabinets.
Zavala and her family have lived on the property 12 years.
“Today, I’m feeling happy because today we get our new house. I’m really grateful to everyone who helped, especially Joe Flores and Ted,” Garcia said.