In January of 2012, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati dedicated a newly rehabbed home in Over-the-Rhine to a hardworking mother and her daughter. Now, more than ten years later, JaQuanna, 40, and her daughter Zhyaire, 22, still call their place on Elm Street home.
Their journey to homeownership started when JaQuanna opened a fortune cookie that read: you will be involved with humanitarian work. She had no idea what that meant until she drove past a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Cincinnati billboard. When she got home, she searched up Habitat and was connected with our homeownership program.
JaQuanna has worked for Cincinnati Metro for 17 years. There, she works as a coach operator, clerk, and a training specialist. But her work doesn't stop there. On the weekends, JaQuanna is a wedding and event planner. Zhyaire also dabbles in multiple fields. She is the owner of a small bakery called Zeeza's Sweets, makes music, loves to dance, and is currently in school to be an esthetician. She told us that her love of baking developed in their kitchen. She says that her friends used to call her cupcake girl because of how much she baked. And, with a bonus room on their third floor, they were able to create a music room for Zhyaire to practice and create her own work. Jaquanna said, "we had plenty of space and the house provided that for us." Their home, with all its space, has been a place for them to foster their passions and careers.
"I was dancing all around this house. I taught myself how to flip here," said Zhyaire.
Since moving to the home, JaQuanna married her long-time partner, Kymisha. Kymisha is an urban farmer master gardener in charge of 82 gardens. She leads workshops on gardening, cooking, and healthy eating here in the community, and the whole family is often involved. JaQuanna told us that this passion started in the backyard of their Habitat Home: "The home here started her passion in the backyard with the fruits and vegetables, with her green thumb, which evolved into the community."
JaQuanna and her family have seen their neighborhood grow, change, and flourish throughout the years. Over-the-Rhine is very walkable, and JaQuanna says that they all take advantage of this. Growing up, Zhyaire was able to walk to school and connect with her community. They also have direct access to the street car, which helps them save on gas and reduce their carbon footprint. "We love just being right down here," she says. From F.C. parades, workout classes at Washington Park, and events at Findlay Market, JaQuanna loves the events and liveliness of their area. "Just being in the community and right here in the heart of everything has been wonderful."
JaQuanna is only the second person in her family to become a homeowner. She looks forward to passing the house down in her family. Although Zhyaire recently moved out and is planning a move to Texas for school, JaQuanna makes sure that she knows where home is. "I always tell her, you can always come back home. Go explore the world, but you can always come back home. And this is where home is."
"I feel like the main goal was stability," said Zhyaire. Since moving in the house, she graduated high school and started her business. JaQuanna has gotten married and advanced in her career. "Everything that I wanted from this house as far as stability, travelling, [Zhyaire] growing up here… everything we've been able to accomplish. So, moving forward, we're just enjoying it," says JaQuanna
Pre-pandemic, JaQuanna volunteered her time with Habitat. She hopes to once again get involved with Habitat, aiming to work with and inspire future homeowners.
JaQuanna and her daughter look back on the Habitat homebuying process with fondness, remembering all the people that supported them and all the hard work they put in. JaQuanna hopes that more families can go through the same process. To potential sponsors, donors, and volunteers she says "please help a family out. [Owning a home] has been so great and rewarding, one of the best things that has happened to me and my family."