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Habitat Homeowner Colise smiles in her living roomColise’s commitment to strengthening her community didn’t end when she signed the mortgage on a home she helped build from the ground up. Even before moving into the Madison South neighborhood of Northeast Portland in 2001, she gave back more than her fair share. She is an individual driven by a deep sense of compassion and integrity. 

Like all Habitat homebuyers, she put in hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” helping to build her home. Despite being a person with a physical disability and having two young children at home, Colise insisted on doing more. A lot more. By the time her home was finished, Colise contributed over 1,735 hours on the build site—all while in a wheelchair. What appeared to staff at the time as an extraordinary contribution was really just the beginning of her new life of breaking down barriers and nurturing her community. 

“Tell me I can’t, you’re gonna make me mad,” she says spryly. “Make me mad and you better stand back.” This attitude describes seamlessly the grit that brought this young mother from near homelessness to homeownership in less than a year. From a decrepit rental in North Portland, she saved and worked on her credit while she went through the Habitat homebuyer program; attending financial preparedness classes and building her home from the ground up. Once she had the keys to her new wheelchair-accessible home, she kept the momentum of that mentality. That’s why it came as no surprise that Colise paid her entire mortgage off in record time. She still remembers how long it took: 12 years, 1 month, and 17 days. An extraordinary achievement, no doubt. 

From the same home, Colise, after having tackled her own poverty, began helping others. From her porch, she launched a social services organization called ‘The Gap: God Always Provides.’ As an unofficial neighborhood organizer, Colise turns donated food and clothes into gifts to people struggling to make ends meet. She made Christmas dinners, provided school supplies, clothes, hygiene kits, and household items. Of her time and dedication to helping others, she says modestly, “Community is what it’s all about.”

Colise organizes a vital source of sustenance to those relying on her services. She says of her organization, “If you’ve kept one person from going hungry at night, you’ve accomplished something.” When asked why she works so tirelessly in helping others, she responds, “Without Habitat helping me get this house, I would not be where we’re at today, period. They gave to me when I needed it.” Looking back, she thinks of her work in the community as a simple way of paying it forward—an extraordinarily caring model that, when looking at all she’s accomplished, fits her uniquely resilient, mold-breaking character. 

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