By Rori Francis Blakeney
“I was praying for a wheelchair ramp,” said Laura Jones. “But, I got a house.”
Jones, a 47-year-old divorced mother of a teenage daughter, found it difficult to care for her wheelchair-bound 84-year-old mother because she was living in a two-story apartment with the bathroom on the second level. Jones’ mother Alice recently had her left leg amputated as a result of complications of diabetes. For the family of three, it has been a two-year struggle to manage the health needs of the matriarch.
A few weeks ago Jones got a birthday gift that will have a lasting impact on her family. Her new Habitat for Humanity home is in The Avery subdivision located in Jonesboro, GA. She was one of two new home recipients, thanks to the Building on Faith Habitat Build led by the Atlanta College Park District. My’yon Holloway, a mother of four, also received keys to a new home.
“It was a birthday present from God,” Jones said. “I am so grateful for this gift from God. I will continue to volunteer for others. This is helping my entire family. It is providing homeownership to three generations. It is such a special gift . . . to know that people of faith built my house.”
Terry Chapman, a member of Fairburn First UMC, approached the district connectional ministry team with the idea of doing a district-sponsored build in May. After hearing a presentation by Brenda Rayburn, executive director and chief operating officer of the Southern Crescent Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the team enthusiastically accepted the challenge. After the district clergy adopted the project, the foundation was laid to complete the homes before Thanksgiving.
“We could not have pulled this off without the help and leadership of our District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Coy Hinton and Mozelle Mitchell, the district administrative assistant,” Chapman said. “They supported the project and provided the needed organizational glue to keep us together. There were some wonderful moments during the construction when extraordinary people showed up at just the time we needed them.”
The build started Sept. 11 and both houses were dedicated Nov. 20. Work continued on 10 consecutive Saturdays, with people from all over the district showing up to help. In addition, Jonesboro UMC, Jodeco Road UMC, Square Foot Ministries, a group from Fayetteville First UMC, and students from Candler School of Theology worked on the homes.
“Helping to build a Habitat Home was a great experience for the Atlanta College Park District,” said District Superintendent Hinton. “People from across the district gave their time, money, and energy. Some represented small membership churches and some represented large membership churches, but that did not matter. What mattered was that we helped a family that needed a good, safe place to live, and we were blessed again and again.”
Financial support was provided by the churches of the Atlanta College Park District, Jonesboro UMC, Eagles Landing Christian Church and a $5,000 grant from North Georgia United Methodist Housing and Homelessness Council.
Habitat’s costs for building a single home range from $75,000 to $80,000. Founded in 1976 by Milliard and Linda Fuller, Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses alongside our homeowner families through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials. In addition to a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor (sweat equity) into building their Habitat house and the houses of others. Homes are sold to families at no profit and financed with affordable loans, with the monthly mortgage payments used to build more Habitat houses.
Each prospective family has a series of steps to go through, which includes 50 hours of education, 250 hours of sweat equity, and an eight-hour class sponsored by the Housing and Urban Development. Also, families must meet three basic criteria: need, income including good job history and credit, and must commit to partnering with Habitat for Humanity.
“This is very good program,” said Jones. “It is not a hand out, but a hand up. It gives the average person a chance to own a home. I am excited to see what the future holds for my family through this gift from God. I will continue to volunteer for others.”
Rori Francis Blakeney, a member and ministerial candidate at Cascade United Methodist Church, serves as the youth pastor at Winters Chapel United Methodist Church in Doraville.
This article recently ran in the North Georgia Advocate, the official print source of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference. For more information about the North Georgia Advocate, or to subscribe, please visit www.ngumc.org/advocate or call 678.533.1376.