Akisha’s new Habitat home sets an example for her daughters

Anyone who has volunteered on a Habitat for Humanity build knows that building a house is hard work. We go home with sore muscles, but when we are working together to build affordable housing, we also go home with smiles on our face, knowing we did good work.

New homeowner Akisha went home with a smile on her face after every build day. It’s those smiles that will stick in her memories, not the aching back. Akisha dedicated her new home this week. When we asked her what it was like to build her own home, she told us simply, “I loved it!”

Akisha documented every step of the build with photographs, and she already knows where she is going to frame and hang a collage of those photos, along with a blueprint of the house.

Akisha decided to partner with Habitat so she could provide a better environment for her daughters, Tylia, 14, and Breanna, 11. The family has been living in income-based housing, in a neighborhood with a lot of drug activity and violence. When repairs were needed, it was difficult to get them addressed.

But there is another reason why building her own home was so important to Akisha. As a single mom working two jobs, she wanted to show her daughters they can work to accomplish their goals.

“I wanted to show my two girls that, whether you’re married or not, you can do it on your own,” Akisha said. “I’m teaching them to walk by faith and not by sight. I’m showing them how to stand on their own two feet.

At Sunday’s dedication, Akisha and her daughters had both smiles and tears as they marked this step to a more secure future. Akisha is looking forward to more memories made together in their new home.

“This is where we’re going to cry our tears, have happy times, share family time and grow together,” she said.

Want to help more families build and buy their own affordable home? Please consider a donation today, or learn more about volunteering with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat home means no more moving for Elena, Luis & family

When you’re raising a family, stable housing means so much. It means your children don’t have to constantly change schools. It means they can forge lasting friendships, and not always have to be the “new kid.” It means parents can build relationships in their neighborhood and become part of a strong community.

For Elena and Luis, stable housing was an impossible challenge, until now. Throughout their time together as a family, they have had to move, on average, once a year—all in the search for housing that was both affordable and safe.

In fact, just in the two years since being accepted into Habitat’s homeownership program, the family had to move multiple times. While living in an overcrowded apartment with asbestos, the landlord sold the property—and gave them a week’s notice to move. Elena and Luis found transitional housing for a few months, then moved again, to a two-bedroom apartment in Davidson that, with utilities, cost them $1,200 a month.

Thanks to a partnership with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and their home sponsor, Thomas, Godley and Grimes, this family will have no more fears of living in a home might make them sick, and no more worries about suddenly having nowhere to live. Elena and Luis worked side by side volunteers from Thomas, Godley and Grimes, along with many of the firm’s real estate clients, to build a stable new home for their family.

As they dedicated their home recently, Elena told friends and family gathered to celebrate with her that the Habitat model was important to her because it offered a way to show her children what can be accomplished with hard work, as well as the importance of giving back to others.

More than 30 families are currently on our waiting list to build and purchase their own affordable home. Your support through a gift today can help them get there.

My Habitat Home

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Today, October 1, is World Habitat Day, as designated by the United Nations. Take one minute to watch this powerful video that illustrates the impact of having a decent place to call “home.”

Inaugural Builders Bash raises $75K to build new affordable homes

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It’s a wrap! The inaugural Our Towns Habitat for Humanity Builder’s Bash September 8 was a big success.  Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, guests and donors, we raised more than $75,000 to help fund a new home in the greater Lake Norman area.  A silent auction kept folks busy bidding throughout the night, and an energetic live auction and opportunity to fund the need for affordable housing gave everyone the chance to make a difference for families in our community.

Thanks to their commitment to the principles of Habitat and their gifts of time and treasures over many years, Paul and Judy Leonard were presented with the Our Towns Habitat’s Founder’s Award.

Right now, Our Towns Habitat has more than 30 families in our homeownership program, taking classes, earning sweat equity hours, and waiting for the opportunity to buy a home with a mortgage they can afford.  Funds raised at the Builder’s Bash will help those families move one step closer to having a home of their own.

If you weren’t able to join us Saturday, please take a moment to watch this video featuring three Our Towns Habitat homeowners and their journeys to homeownership. It takes just a few minutes to make a secure online donation to help the families on our waiting list. Thanks to everyone who supported the Builder’s Bash and our efforts every day to ensure everyone has a decent place to live!

Julien and Sarah’s new home marks completion of Mooresville neighborhood

Julien and Sarah are escaping overcrowded conditions for their family of six with the new Habitat home they are purchasing in the Mooresville neighborhood of Burke Crossings. Their home represents the completion of this neighborhood, a collaborative project between Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and the Town of Mooresville.

Donating all of the land for the development to Our Towns Habitat and providing additional funding for home construction, the Town of Mooresville partnered with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to lay infrastructure for the development in 2009.

After completing the first two homes, the original developer could not fulfill requirements to sell the homes to qualifying families and in 2014 the Town of Mooresville turned to Our Towns Habitat for assistance with the remaining 21 homes.

“This is one of the most enjoyable things I have done since being elected a commissioner for the Town of Mooresville,” said Town Commissioner Barbara Whittington, as she presented the couple with their house keys. “We are delighted with our partnership with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.”

The development is named for Mooresville native Dr. Selma Burke, a pioneering African-American sculptor who was influential in the Harlem Renaissance movement, and whose bust of Franklin D. Roosevelt can be found in Washington, D.C. and on the U.S. dime.

Located within Cascade Mill Village, the neighborhood once had dirt roads, high crime rates and was primarily renter-occupied with mill homes falling into disrepair. Today, the new Our Towns Habitat homes are LEED-certified for energy efficiency and feature long-lasting, sustainable metal roofs.

“We are proud that the homes we build are not just affordable, but sustainable., said Chris Ahearn, chief executive officer for Our Towns Habitat. “They are built to last, and our energy efficiency standards keep homeowner utility payments low, while also preserving our environmental resources. That commitment to sustainability is echoed by the Town of Mooresville.”

The final home of the development now belongs to Julien Kitambala and Sarah Mbala and their four children.

Julien and Sarah contributed 400 sweat equity hours and attended homeownership classes to receive the key to their family’s new home, all while Julien worked fulltime as a custodian for Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. The home will allow them to become more self-reliant as they move out of subsidized housing and begin paying an affordable mortgage.

“I am looking forward to living in something that I know is ours and having the freedom to take care of the home,” said Julien.

Assisting with sponsorship of the family’s home was the Town of Mooresville, the Levine Foundation and Quinnipiac University’s College Challenge team.

Through Our Towns Habitat’s homeownership program, greater Lake Norman area residents partner with Habitat to build their own home alongside volunteers, then pay a mortgage they can afford. Your donation today can help build more homes for the 30+ future homeowners on our waiting list.

Tanya’s safe, affordable Habitat home was worth the work

For some of our homeowners, getting up on the roof and conquering a fear of heights is the most challenging part of building their home.

For Tanya and her son Jordan, it was bugs they had to overcome. Neither of them are fans of crawling critters, which meant working in the crawl space was a most unwelcome task! Jordan was happy he missed that day on the build site, but the Our Towns Habitat construction team made sure there were plenty of bugs left for him when it came time to install vinyl siding.

Tanya and Jordan spent 15 years living in subsidized housing, where they encountered significant safety issues and delays in getting necessary repairs addressed. She is looking forward to living in a neighborhood where there is a sense of community and neighbors who look out for each other.

For Tanya, earning her 400 sweat equity hours was particularly challenging because of her work schedule. She works as a stylist at Sport Clips, and her days off are Sundays and Mondays, when no construction tasks are scheduled.

She is grateful that Jordan was able to help her earn the hours she needed, while also working toward his associate’s degree at Central Piedmont Community College. She says she has also learned a lot of useful skills that will help her continue to maintain her home.

All that hard work will pay off as Tanya now becomes a homeowner. She is looking forward to paying an affordable mortgage that will be less than rent on her one-bedroom apartment.

“It will be great to not throw away thousands on something that’s not mine, and be able to start building equity,” she told us.

Home for single dad Melech marks completion of a neighborhood

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Composed entirely of Habitat homes, Poole Place is a unique neighborhood that illustrates the power of partnerships between non-profits, local organizations and local government. In 2005, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity began construction on the development, its largest affordable housing community to date, and today, more than a decade later, it dedicated its final house in the 61-home neighborhood.

In order to complete the large project, Our Towns Habitat joined with the Town of Cornelius to purchase and develop the land in two phases. Phase one focused on the development of a 15-lot subdivision. That purchase included an option to buy an additional 46-lot property on Baily Road, which eventually became phase two of Poole Place.

Named after Winton Poole, the former Cornelius commissioner who was the driving force behind the project, Poole Place exemplifies Habitat for Humanity’s partnership model. Over the last 13 years, Our Towns Habitat worked with countless volunteers, organizations and government officials to build the neighborhood one house at a time. It now provides shelter for 61 families, and many of them still attend the dedications of the community’s newest homes.

The completion of the neighborhood was marked today by the dedication of the last home, for single dad Melech and his 6-year-old daughter Yahmina. Melech has spent his entire life living in apartments, so this home, sponsored by Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Wells Fargo and Mecklenburg Girl Scout Troop 2383,  will be his first.

At the subsidized apartment where he and his daughter currently reside, Melech does not feel safe and has struggled with constant maintenance issues. Recently, he bought Yahmina a toy electric car, but she doesn’t get to use it much now because Melech worries about her safety when she drives it outside of their apartment.

Now, as they prepare to move into their new home, the two will be able to enjoy a yard, a greenway and a safe community where Yahmina can enjoy being a kid in.

“I can’t wait to just open up the door, put her car out, and let her go without worrying,” Melech said.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help families like Yanelly’s, visit our volunteer and donation pages for more information.

About the Author: Hannah Bain is a rising junior at N.C. State University, where she is studying public relations, Spanish and nonprofit studies. She is serving as a development and communication intern for Our Towns Habitat, focusing on capturing the stories of new and existing Habitat homeowners.

Yanelly’s Habitat house is ‘first step’ to building a future

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Sitting in the middle of her nearly finished kitchen surrounded by her not-yet-installed cooking and washing appliances, Yanelly smiled calmly and gestured out the window.

“My kids and I come here every day,” she said. “We water the grass in the yard every afternoon and it’s really beautiful now.”

Dressed in a soft, flowered skirt and lounging in a green folding chair — one of three that she had pulled from her car so that everyone in the room would have somewhere to sit — she was the definition of relaxed.

But her life has been anything but relaxing.

A single mother of three boys, Yanelly has lived, worked and struggled to support her family for the past 11 years in Davidson, N.C.

Before learning about Our Towns Habitat, the family experienced overcrowding and safety issues in previous homes and neighborhoods. Now, with a July 7 dedication date quickly approaching, Yanelly is looking forward to feeling settled and secure in her new home.

“I’m really excited about everything that comes with owning and living in this home,” she said. “I love that the area is so calm, and when it snows I think my sons and I will have fun sledding down the hill behind the house.”

Yanelly is enthusiastic about having the peace and stability that comes with being a homeowner, but she is also grateful to have been a part of the long hours and difficult days that went into building the home.

“It’s something where you learn about everything,” she said. “They teach you how to save money, how to start from the bottom, how to make goals for your life, and, most importantly, you learn how to build a house from the bottom to the top.”

Yanelly completed her sweat equity hours with after-school help from her sons — Jose, 18, Eric, 16, and Daniel, 13 — but during the process, she had to hurdle another challenge when Eric began having seizures. Later that year, doctors found several benign tumors in his brain and diagnosed him with epilepsy.

Despite working full-time and adjusting to her son’s new diagnosis, Yanelly completed her 400 sweat equity hours—it was “difficult but not impossible” she said—before construction of her home began early this year.

On site during the first day of construction, Yanelly said that she couldn’t control her tears. “It was a feeling of happiness and of overwhelming emotion as the walls went up,” she explained. “Each day, you see the volunteers that are working here, and each nail that they put in the house is full of love.”

Like Yanelly, her sons are eager to move into their first home. Her oldest son, Jose, will graduate high school next year, and hopes to go to college to study computers.

“I’m going to help him,” Yanelly said determinedly, “and with this house I can help him more because now we are paying so much less.”

With her sweat equity hours complete and the date of her dedication getting closer, Yanelly is putting herself to work once again.

“I’m thinking of what we’re going to be doing, about how many people are going to show up and about what they’re going to have to eat.” A baker in her free time, she plans to have a spread of desserts ranging from tiramisu to tres leches cake for all to enjoy on her dedication day.

“I can’t wait for that day,” Yanelly said. “I’ve been waiting for it for a long time, and it’s going to be beautiful because when you have a house it starts to shape your future. It’s the first step in building more for your life and your family.”

Yanelly’s home was funded by Davidson United Methodist Church, with church members providing the volunteer support to build the home. Watch our blog for more about Our Towns Habitat’s partnership with DUMC.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help families like Yanelly’s, visit our volunteer and donation pages for more information.

About the Author: Hannah Bain is a rising junior at N.C. State University, where she is studying public relations, Spanish and nonprofit studies. She is serving as a development and communication intern for Our Towns Habitat, focusing on capturing the stories of new and existing Habitat homeowners.

From cold to hot, Juan & Telma’s home build was a study in extremes

Though the sweltering sun was making steam rise knee-high above the road outside, Juan and Telma couldn’t stop thinking about the time they had spent buried under multiple layers of clothes as they hammered nails into their home.

Construction for their Poole Place home began in January of this year, and the extreme weather had made the experience memorable for both the family and volunteers. One volunteer even recalled spilling hot coffee and seeing it freeze before she was able to find something to clean it up with.

Now, five months later, Juan and Telma are dedicating their new Habitat home, and are eager to move in their four children – Jackie, 16, Juan Carlos, 13, Carlos, 10, and Eric, 8 – whose excited footsteps echoed through the house as they ran in and out of their soon-to-be-bedrooms.

“We’re doing this for them and I think what I’m going to enjoy the most about having this home is knowing that my kids are content and that they’ll get to have their own rooms,” Juan said.

Though the two youngest boys will still share a room, they’re looking forward to the extra space. “It’s all about the bathrooms anyway,” Eric joked. “We all shared one at our house now and it got pretty crowded.”

Juan and Telma learned about Our Towns Habitat through a friend and decided to apply for a home in 2017. They were living in Huntersville at the time, but were struggling to pay their high utility bills.

After being accepted to the program, they began completing their 400 sweat equity hours, and enjoyed being able to work on their own home and on other Habitat homes. As a machine operator working in the construction field, Juan was no stranger to building projects, but he still felt that he gained a lot while working with Habitat.

“I learned how to do things that I had never learned before, like laying shingles,” Juan said. “It was also nice because we were all united out there working together. I ended up meeting a lot of friends.”

Though their children couldn’t help with most of the construction work, they did help plant all of the flowers in front of the house, and Telma is excited about getting to do more as a family after moving in.

“There’s a path right out there,” she said gesturing out one of the side windows, “and I’m really looking forward to taking walks out there as a family. There are a lot of cars where we live now, so we almost never get to walk together.”

Though the weather is drastically different than it was when construction began, Juan and Telma are just as excited and grateful about finally having their own home.

“Everyone that has helped us – all of the volunteers and the people from Habitat – are such good people,” Telma said smiling.

“We just want to say thank you to everyone who helped,” Juan said. “We’re so happy to have our own home and we plan on staying here for as long as possible.”

Juan and Telma’s home was partially sponsored by Publix Charities. Volunteer groups who worked on the home included Lowe’s, Elevation Church, Radiant Life Fellowship in Huntersville, Davidson College, Kohler, Community School of Davidson, Hough High School, the Cannon School and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

About the Author: Hannah Bain is a rising junior at N.C. State University, where she is studying public relations, Spanish and nonprofit studies. She is serving as a development and communication intern for Our Towns Habitat, focusing on capturing the stories of new and existing Habitat homeowners.

Habitat home is helping Bill rebuild after stroke

Habitat home dedications are always emotional events. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to find themselves at a loss for words when they stand at the podium to thank those who made their home possible.

But for our newest homeowner Bill, finding the right words is a daily struggle.

Five years ago, Bill suffered a major stroke. He actually “died” for two minutes on the way to the hospital, before he was revived by ER doctors. The stroke left him unable walk, talk or drive, and he spent three months in the hospital rehabbing. It also left him in financial ruin.

Slowly, Bill’s words came back. First in Italian—his native tongue—then in Spanish, which he learned at age 5, when his family moved from Venice to Mexico. The last words to come back to Bill were in English—the language his four children all speak.

English continues to be challenging for Bill. He still has some speech impairment from the physical damage the stroke inflicted. The stroke also affected the language center of his brain, so he finds himself struggling to find the right words. His young son Eros tends to readily step in and prompt him with the right word.

But if you take the time to listen to Bill—to wait for him to find those elusive words—you will find he has a lot to say. He will tell you that for everything his stroke took away from him, it gave him something back.

It took away a lucrative, high-powered executive career, but gave him a slower way of life, with more focus on the people he cares about.

It took away a focus on money and material things, but gave him a focus on service and gratitude.

It took away the four large homes he once owned, but gave him his Habitat house—a home that Bill calls his “favorite.” Bill knows every inch of this home, because he helped build it with his own hands, and that makes it special.

Before the build, he and Eros carefully selected all the options for this house—they picked dark wood finishes because they want to create the feel of a cabin. They’ve already hand-painted furniture to make the look complete.

And now, Bill and Eros can finally move into their dream home—their own little “cabin”—thanks to Bill’s hard work and the dedication and support of our many volunteers and donors.