Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County

The Hernandez Family

Born and raised in Mexico City, Rodolfo “Rudy” Hernandez first came to the U.S. to visit family in California. He decided to settle there. Rudy, who was single at the time, eventually decided to come to Washington with his younger brother to look for better work. They hoped to eventually settle in Alaska. “I read the Bellingham Herald when I was living in California. I saw a story saying that they needed people in Alaska for the fishing industry,” said Rudy. “But my English was zero! Nobody would hire me with no English and no experience. So, I ended up staying in Bellingham. I worked on farms and in orchards. I followed the crops, you know.

“Once we got to Bellingham, we started looking for work in the city, because we were both from the city. I applied to all the canneries. No luck at first. Eventually, though, I got work in the canneries. We worked a lot in construction, too, and in lumber mills. We also worked in the strawberry fields,” he added.

He and his brother didn’t know anyone in Bellingham. He slept in his car first for three months, in winter. For showers, he and his brother went to the marina. “For 25 cents they’d give you 10 minutes in the shower. We’d shower, shave, and get ready to work. It was one day at a time — we struggled a lot.”

Then Rudy’s brother returned to California and Rudy was alone. Eventually, he made a friend working in a cannery, and he moved in with the friend and 10 other people to a small apartment. Through Rudy’s church, he met another family, and he moved in with them in Everson, Washington.

“I met someone who rented me a trailer, well, more like a camper, just for one or two people. That was when I started working in construction. He was my friend, boss, and landlord. Everything! While working in construction, I started to learn more English.

“It was back and forth: construction, then canneries, then construction,” Rudy said. “One year I filled out
16 W-2’s! I worked at whatever was available back then. I like to work, and I’ve worked since I was nine years old with my dad. I came here to work, so I looked for work. I worked from the very first day I moved here.” 

Rudy eventually married his wife, Maria, in Mexico. They met at his church group while they were both in school, before he came to the U.S. (they lived a few blocks from each other). For four years, they wrote letters every week and spoke by phone. Back then, it sometimes it took almost a month for letters from Maria in Mexico to reach him in Bellingham. He’d send four letters for every one he’d receive. They’ve known each other for over 30 years and have been married for 27 years!

“Maria applied for her visa when we decided to get married. When she first came here, she traveled as tourist. Once she was here, we applied for her residency. I was already a resident,” added Rudy. “We had to wait for a long time.” Together, they got a one-room apartment near Western Washington University. Again, sharing a bathroom and kitchen with others.

Rudy and Maria eventually moved into a rented mobile home, where they lived for 20 years. While living there, through his job at the lumber mill, Rudy heard about Habitat for Humanity and the family decided to apply. The couple had three children together, and the space was getting tighter each day. 

We’re so happy to dedicate this beautiful home to the Hernandez family this January. Again, thank to all of the volunteers who made this possible — outside of the initial dirt work, the Hernandez home is an all volunteer-built home. A huge thanks to all of the donors and organizations for donating towards the project. Lastly, we’d like to thank Father Paul Magnano for blessing the home during our dedication, as well as one of our Store Managers, Rue MacDonald for photographing the event.

Thank you to all of the organizations and donors for making this home possible!

Applied Digital Imaging

Banner Bank

Bradley Engineering

Compass Point Survey Group, Inc 

Construction Supply Company 

Eleanor & Henry Jansen Foundation 

Habitat Home Improvement 

Harkness Contracting, Inc 

Lautenbach Industries 

Len Honcoop Gravel, Inc

North Pacific Concrete Pumping

Scott Stilts

Sherwin Williams

Topside Roofing & Construction

United Rentals

Vander Griend Lumber

Washington Federal Foundation

Wells Fargo Builds


Allen Kihm
Andy Koch
Anna Morley
Art Baddorf
Art Ellwanger
Brian Mattioli
Brit Banner
Brittani Wodicka
Charles Wichman
Claire Drury
Colleen Hedrick
Dennis Nowak
Devin O’Leary
Dianne Nowak
Donald Hulse
Duncan Howatt
Dylan C. Albrecht
Efton Park
Greg Gardner
Heather K. Gross
Hudson Soelter
Ida Lam
James Amber
James Hedrick
James Hoppie
James Reimer
Jeffrey Yingling
Jim Colby
Ken Andres
Kiowan Gardner
Kristine Choquette
Larry Durham
Leda Coughlin
Lindsay E. Bekken
Margot Durham
Maria Hernandez
Martha Braet
Max J. Zender
Michael Chesanek
Michael Wakefield
Mike Roberts
Patrick Callens
Paul Stromdahl
Randy Scobee
Rebecca McCarthy
Richard Fisher
Rick Reed
Rodolfo Hernandez
Scott Stilts
Sharon Amber
Stephen Askew
Steve Nakano
Susan Garczynski
Todd Zender
Tom Olsen
Troy Duvall

There are many ways to bring affordable housing to our community and every hand makes a difference!

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