As the ping pong balls rattled around in a spinning metal cage, seventeen Long Island families held their collective breath.
Each ball bore the name of someone praying for a chance to change their lives.
But the prize wasn't cash -- it was a home. And only six would walk away winners.
"In this economy, it's really hard to buy a home," said Kristel Lafoucade, a 28-year-old data administrator from Roosevelt, who still lives with her parents.
The event was Hempstead Town's "affordable housing lottery."
Up for grabs was a three-bedroom, 1,500 square foot house at a price less than half its market value.
"This is a unique opportunity, even in good times," said Hempstead Town supervisor Kate Murray.
The cheers of the winners drove that point home.
"Thank you Jesus!" said single mother Tanya Jones, as her name was read. She currently lives in a rented home with her three children. "It means security. It means upward bounds for me and my family."
Every entrant had to meet income requirements to be part of the lottery: $58,000 for a single person, or $82,900 for a family of four.
The homes will be sold to the winners for $160,000 -- prices were kept down by federal and state monies. Those buying the homes will be required to live in them for at least ten years before they can sell at full value.
"God answered my prayers today," said Chandine Graham, a retail store manager who shares a home with her mom.
"Now my daughter can have her own room," said the separated mother of four-year-old Mikayla.
All the homes are slated for completion in the summer of 2011.
Kristel Lafoucade will be among those moving in. Her ping pong ball was the first to fall from the cage.
"I couldn't believe it. I am still in shock," said Lafoucade. "It means a new beginning, a chance to get out on my own."
But those whose dreams were dashed can only hope more affordable homes like this will be built on Long Island in the future -- and they hope that next time, the ping pong balls bounce their way.
"I'll be back," insisted Gloria Cassell.