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As volunteers prepared for a formal wall raising at Habitat for Humanity's latest house in Billings, the group's Mid-Yellowstone Valley director, Jim Woolyhand, praised volunteers' work.

"We're on that homestretch," he said. 

For Veronica Romero, the home's future owner, that's got additional meaning. 

She said that she grew up without stable housing, often in and out of shelters, and around abusive situations. For her, the road to a home began long before foundations were laid at Habitat's subdivision in the Heights. 

"(My pastor) always says that it's been 38 years in the making," she said. 

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Home buyer Veronica Romero

People pray with The Rev. David Morales for home buyer Veronica Romero and her son Cruz, center, standing with Theresa Morales, at a gathering at Romero's home site in the Billings Heights to raise a wall on the house being built by Habitat for Humanity on Saturday, November 10, 2018.

Habitat does not give away houses — owners purchase them at fair market value. But the organization doesn't seek to turn a profit, and it doesn't charge interest on mortgage loans. The group does require that future owners volunteer in their home's building to put in "sweat equity."

Soon, Romero and her 17-year-old son will live in the seventh house Habitat has built on Megan Circle, part of a 16-home subdivision in the Heights. It's the 82nd house the group has built since 1992. 

Helen Fryer hasn't been volunteering for Habitat quite that long — only since 1997. 

She suggested volunteering to her husband Dale, who died about 10 years ago.

"I thought he needed something to do," she said. She got a little more than she bargained for. 

"He says, 'oh, come on down and you can paint,'" she said. 

Fryer, 87, now volunteers at the ReStore, Habitat's retail outlet and donation center. She was the major sponsor for the Romero's future home, making a donation of at least $25,000 to get the project off the ground. 

"I think it's a good cause," she said. 

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Sponsor Helen Fryer

Sponsor Helen Fryer looks on at a gathering at Veronica Romero's home site in the Billings Heights to raise a wall on the house being built by Habitat for Humanity on Saturday, November 10, 2018.

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Home buyer Veronica Romero

Home buyer Veronica Romero hugs home sponsor Helen Fryer at a gathering at Romero's home site in the Billings Heights to raise a wall on the house being built by Habitat for Humanity on Saturday, November 10, 2018.

The Saturday morning chill — enough to keep kids' hands burrowed in their coat sleeves — isn't the first Romero's endured at the work site. She's put in about 350 hours of work at the house. 

"She's dedicated, she's hard working," Woolyhand said. 

Despite that, "it hasn't fully hit me yet," Romero said. "This is kind of a dream realized."

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.