I’ve been engaged with Habitat for Humanity since its earliest days. In my previous life with the Baptist State Convention, I helped to promote this pathway to home ownership when it was in its first two or three years of existence. My wife and I supported Habitat financially, as best we could. And Millard Fuller, Habitat’s founder, always remembered us and greeted us as if we were his biggest supporters. (We weren’t.)
In the early 2000s, I parlayed my friendship with Millard and my relationship with Rick Beech, then the regional coordinator for several mid-Atlantic states, into a partnership between Habitat and the NC Council. The primary outcome was the building of 60 homes in rural parts of NC, thanks mainly to the generosity of The Duke Endowment. Most of these homes were built with multi-denominational and biracial work teams. Another outcome was Habitat’s increasing involvement in public policy advocacy on behalf of affordable shelter for disadvantaged people
My appreciation for and involvement with Habitat are long, strong, and deep.
Last month, though, I took part in my first Habitat home dedication where the new homeowner is someone I know. Alecia Stuart has been my hair-cutter for the past five or six years. In that role, she has done remarkable work, given the raw material she’s had to work with. But it also means that I’ve known of her interest in being a Habitat homeowner since, probably, before the Wake County Habitat people knew. And then I’ve seen her nervousness at applying to be a homeowner and waiting to hear, her excitement at being selected, her pleasure at being able to have input into the home’s design and color selections, her excitement at the groundbreaking, her commitment to working on her home and those of her neighbors, and her sense of satisfaction at the dedication. She will be moving in soon, along with her kids. Their home in White Oak Villas was sponsored by Habitat at NC State and by a coalition of Catholic parishes in Wake County: Our Lady of Lourdes, Sacred Heart Cathedral, St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joseph, St. Luke the Evangelist, St. Mary Mother of the Church, St. Bernadette, and St. Raphael the Archangel.
In addition to seeing the commitment of Catholic volunteers and NC State students, I learned several other things at the dedication:
- Wake County Habitat builds a home in Honduras for every home they build in Wake County. Not only does that mean financial support, but 20 Wake County folks spent the first week of April in Honduras working on a build.
- Alecia’s home is in a community of Habitat homes, 16 in all. This happened because White Oak Baptist Church had bought the land for this development and then involved Habitat in the actual building of the homes. Pastor Charles Tyner of White Oak Baptist offered the benediction at the dedication, which was the last home completed in the neighborhood. He also said to Kevin Campbell, Wake Habitat’s president, “Habitat, we own some more land!”
- A lot of this is about relationships. Rick Beech has held several positions with Habitat and a staff position with Apex UMC, but he’s now back with Habitat of Wake County as their VP for faith relations. He tells people that I am responsible for him staying in faith-related work, which included his role in the creation of Wake Habitat many years ago. I think he might be exaggerating, but I am more than willing to claim some part in the wonderful work he has done over many years.
Of course, the most important points here are that another family has a home of their own and that Habitat is still in the business of enabling people of modest means to become home owners, through sweat equity, no-interest mortgages, and the commitment of people of faith to donate money and their own willingness to hammer, saw, and paint. Congratulations to Alecia and her kids, to all who worked on their home, and to Habitat of Wake.