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Haitian immigrant paints, pounds nails on her new Habitat for Humanity home – Kearney Hub

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Lu Racine poses with the framing of her Habitat house last July. She enthusiastically helped with its construction.
Habitat for Humanity home recipient, Mary Silvester from Kearney, talks about her experience.
KEARNEY — Next Thursday, Luvianne Racine will open the best Christmas gift she has ever received. She will get the keys to her new Habitat for Humanity home on 17th Avenue.
Last week, as she gingerly stepped around boxes, tools and construction paraphernalia in her not-quite-finished house, she was excited. The new house caps off the search for a better life for Racine, who emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti 14 years ago and came to Kearney shortly after that.
Since then, she has lived in a two-bedroom mobile home at Countryside Mobile Home Park, but after her four nephews emigrated from Cuba and moved in, too, “It was too small for all of us, and it wasn’t really nice. It needed remodeling,” Racine said.
She began searching for a better place to live, but every time she found a house she could afford, “someone else put money down on it before I did,” she said.
Finally, she explored her options with her real estate agent. “When we finished talking, he said, ‘You probably qualify for Habitat.’ I had not heard of Habitat,” she said. She applied in early 2022 and was accepted. Habitat for Humanity homes are not free; homeowners must make mortgage payments.
Lu Racine’s new Habitat house will be dedicated at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Habitat for Humanity, now in its 30th season in Kearney, also requires future homeowners to put in 400 hours of labor to help build their homes. That includes 250 of their own hours, and 150 hours from friends, family and sponsors, so last March, when work began on her house, she plunged in.
Building, she said with a bright smile, “was a really good time.”
She would head to the Habitat site in the morning directly from her night shift at Mosaic in Axtell, where she has worked for eight years.
“When I first came to the site, I told them, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ But I am a good worker and I learn fast, so they said, ‘Do whatever.’ I said, ‘Whatever what?’”
The crew asked her if she could nail. “I said, ‘Of course I can nail,’ and I started nailing,” she said. “I really liked working with the crew, so I kept on doing it. They are wonderful. Every time I didn’t understand something, I just asked, and someone was always ready to explain it to me.”
Ken Mumm, a past Habitat president and a member of the building committee, said, “Lu is an eager learner and a really hard worker. She was willing to take on any task. Despite juggling work and child care, she was still on site almost all work days, often after working nights.”
This banner announces Thursday’s dedication of Lu Racine’s house on 17th Avenue.
Racine’s story begins in 2008 when she and her then-husband came to the U.S. from Haiti legally, with a green card. Life in Haiti “was not dependable,” she said.
“Sometimes it is really difficult when you do not have a job and you have to rely on someone else. If you have a job, depending on your family and where you live, it’s not too bad, but for now, it’s Hell,” she said.

The couple spent their first six months in Tampa. She had never seen snow until she visited a relative in Boston and heard that 11 inches of snow was predicted by the next morning. “They said it was going to snow. I said, ‘OK,’” she said.
The next morning, she headed outside in her “little shoes” and tried to walk. “I went to Payless and found some boots,” she said, laughing.
The couple ended up in Kearney because her husband knew people here. My husband said, ‘Come visit. You’ll love it,’” she said. So she did — in March. “There was snow everywhere. It was cold. I thought, ‘My gosh, this is Hell,’” she said.
But they stayed, and “by June, it reminded me of home. My father’s family was farmers, and it was good to smell the grass. It looked like home.”
After living in a trailer for years, Lu Racine appreciates the spacious kitchen in her new Habitat house.
In 2013, her nephew Kelly arrived from Haiti and moved into the trailer with them. A few years ago, four more nephews emigrated from Cuba and moved into the trailer, too.
The boys’ lives had been harrowing. Their mother had been kidnapped and spent 20 days in captivity. The family paid the ransom twice before she was released, but after that, “every time a car passed by, the kids worried that they might be kidnapped,” Racine said.
The young men, ranging in age from six to 16, came to the U.S. with their mother, but she had to return home to finalize a few remaining details. Racine had expected them to move into the Habitat house with her, but their mother recently returned to the U.S., and they now live with her.
Kelly still lives with Racine and will have his own bedroom in the Habitat house. Since arriving in Kearney in 2013, he has graduated from Kearney High School and is studying biology at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Lu Racine loves the bright colors and the chandelier inside her new house.
Walking around her new house last week, Racine beamed. She loves the large kitchen, the two bathrooms, the three bedrooms and the bright colors on the walls.
Outside, the exterior color is lime green. “I like blue and white, but my nephew wanted green. I figure he’ll get the house some day, so I let him pick green,” she said.
She expects to be completely moved in before Christmas. She has already met a few neighbors. “This is my new house. I love it. It is a very good Christmas gift,” she said this week. Two other Habitat homes have been dedicated in recent weeks, too. Newest homeowners are Amanda Sedam and her son Ryan, 11, and Elle Zimniak and her daughter Natalie.
Lu Racine and her nephew eagerly anticipate the dedication of their Habitat home Thursday evening.
For eight years, Racine has worked at Mosaic in Axtell, so the Rev. John Gosswein, the chaplain at Mosaic, will bless her home at its dedication Thursday. It will be the 94th home built here by Habitat.
“Lu is very dedicated, compassionate and faithful. At Mosaic’s Home Capernaum, she works with people who struggle with physical, mental and social disabling concerns, yet she is inspired to encourage their dignity and value,” Gosswein said.
“I find it a powerful journey that Lu, who has shared so much in making sure those entrusted to her care have a place they can call home, can now have such a quality habitat — home — herself,” he said.
maryjane.skala@kearneyhub.com
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Lu Racine poses with the framing of her Habitat house last July. She enthusiastically helped with its construction.
Lu Racine’s new Habitat house will be dedicated at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
This banner announces Thursday’s dedication of Lu Racine’s house on 17th Avenue.
After living in a trailer for years, Lu Racine appreciates the spacious kitchen in her new Habitat house.
Lu Racine loves the bright colors and the chandelier inside her new house.
Lu Racine and her nephew eagerly anticipate the dedication of their Habitat home Thursday evening.
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