Published: Nov 12, 2011 4:17 PM EST
Updated: Nov 12, 2011 4:46 PM EST


CAPE CORAL, Fla.- Keith and Joyce Darling were in the process of buying a home in 2008 when the economy took a turn for the worse.

"I lost my job and that put a halt to it and then my husband became disabled so we had a double whammy and after that we stopped. We couldn't go forward," Joyce Darling said.

Around that same time is when Habitat for Humanity launched a new endeavor... in addition to their traditional builds, they started buying foreclosed homes in southwest Florida and re-habbing them for families in need.

"It is the first time for many of them that they've had a decent affordable place to live. We have 142 children this year that will be experiencing the holidays in their own home for the first time," said Ginny Cooper with Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry counties.

Instead of raising walls, volunteers paint the walls. Buying homes that are already standing, allows for a quicker turn around time, getting families inside the house much quicker.

"It's just a matter of painting, replacing appliances, replacing carpet, if there are any minor repairs that have to be done we have them done beforehand by the licensed electricians and plumbers that work with us," Cooper continued.

In the last year Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry counties has rehabbed seventy houses and given many first time home owners a safe and cost-efficient place to live.

The Darlings say they couldn't be happier to be part of that club.

"To be out of the neighborhood we're living in now in a not very good part of town and to be in a great neighborhood and celebrate in our new home that's almost brand new.... it's a great feeling," said Keith Darling.

Families do have to qualify to buy the homes. they also have to put in 250 hours of "sweat equity" before getting a house of their own.