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Lahpai and Chang Li’s American Dream

Lahpai and Chang Li are proof the American Dream is alive and well. The keys they hold to their new home is all the evidence that is needed.

Lahpai and Chang recently became new homeowners when they accepted those keys from Our Towns Habitat for Humanity.

It ended an American Dream journey that began when they fled Myanmar a decade ago with two small children, leaving behind a nation that has been in political and religious turmoil for generations. Their first stop in America was Jacksonville, Florida, where they found work at Fresh Market. They excelled at their jobs, and were transferred to Cornelius, where they continue to shine for Fresh Market, serving up some of the best sushi around.

Work and comfortable surroundings free of political and religious strife were a life-altering change for Lahpai and Chang Li and their two teenage boys, but like many, they still faced financial difficulties. Affordable housing was difficult to find. Rent ate much of their monthly income, leaving little for other essential family needs.

Enter Our Towns Habitat, providing the final piece for the fulfillment of Lahpai and Chang’s American Dream.

As with everything they have encountered in America, the family attacked the process of gaining eligibility for a new home with an affordable mortgage. Initially there were some credit hurdles, but the couple successfully completed a financial counseling program to eliminate those obstacles.

On May 9, with an informal ribbon cutting and big smiles, the family became homeowners in a Bailey Springs neighborhood of Davidson. Their kids can walk to school. They have a comfortable, functional living space with a bedroom for each of their sons. They have safe and affordable housing, which allows for a much less stressful life.

“This home is a blessing from God,” Lahpai said.

This home is proof that with hard work, perseverance and a little help from others, the American Dream is alive and well.

Elena’s Story

Completion of 10th Women Build house helps Luz escape ‘choking’ rent

There is no doubt that partnering with Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and Women Build to buy an affordable home will have an immeasurable impact on the future for Luz.

Before building her Habitat home, Luz spent more than 70% of her monthly income just on housing. Her rent, she said, felt like it was choking her. Now happily moved into her new home, Luz says she will finally be able to breathe and relax.

Luz immigrated to the United States from Colombia seven years ago, escaping dangerous conditions there and joining family already living here. Buying her own home is an important next step in her journey.

“Having something in this country makes you feel like you belong, and it is the start of everything,” Luz said.

Luz was not intimidated by the prospect of doing construction work on her own home. She said she enjoyed helping other homeowners build their dreams, and hopes to continue volunteering. Getting up on the roof was the only thing that intimidated her, but she conquered that fear long enough to work up there for a little while.

It helped that she was surrounded by so many strong women, working on Our Towns Habitat’s 10th Women Build  house. Luz said she felt like all the Women Build volunteers were not just helping her, but working alongside her—which is really what a Habitat partnership is all about.

Now that this dream is finally becoming reality, one thing that Luz is most excited about is being able to garden in her backyard. She has never been able to grow a garden before, so she has some learning to do, but she says she is going to grow anything she can. We certainly look forward to seeing what blooms in her yard!

Alissa’s new home offers safety and security

In her search for affordable housing, Alissa has always had to make compromises. Two years ago, she was living in a home with serious repair issues—she had no hot water, could not use her shower and the furnace was not safe to operate. When the property owner was foreclosed on, she had to find somewhere to live quickly.

The house she rents now is in better shape—but her neighborhood is not safe. Recently, someone was murdered just a few streets down from her. Since she has lived there, her dog has been taken from her yard three times. She is afraid to even go out at night—“when I get home from work, I stay home,” she says.

All of that is changing now. Today, Alissa dedicated her beautiful Habitat new home–a home which she has spent many hours helping build, and which she will buy with an affordable mortgage.

The path to homeownership hasn’t been easy—Alissa works long hours at her job with Structure Medical and had to have her schedule adjusted to work on her house—but she says all the work was worth it.

Mixed in with that hard work were new experiences and new friends. There were some aspects of the build, like using a power saw, that were intimidating to Alissa, but once she learned how to use it, she says it became fun. Her favorite part, she tells us, was seeing how the different options she selected for her flooring, cabinets and other finishes came together.

Now the work is done, and she is ready to make this house a home—a safe home where her daughter can come to visit, with her brand new grandbaby, and where she can host family for holiday celebrations.

After crossing an ocean to minister, family can now call Davidson home

Called to serve in ministry in the United States, new Habitat homeowners Binh and Ruto immigrated with their family from Vietnam to the United States five years ago. Now, they have an affordable home for their family while they grow in their ministry.

The couple has been serving with the children and youth ministry for the Vietnamese congregation at Selwyn United Methodist Church in Charlotte. Binh was recently approved to serve as a local pastor, while he continues working toward becoming an ordained minister. Binh and Ruto have just dedicated their new Habitat home in the Davidson neighborhood of Bailey Springs.

Binh calls the family’s new home an answer to prayer. When he and Ruto first came to Our Towns Habitat, Binh prayed that their new home would be in a location where his girls would not have to change schools. Imagine Binh’s delight when he drove to the address of what would soon be his family’s new home—and realized their new neighborhood was right across the street from his daughters’ school.

“I bowed down on my knees in thanks to God for how He has provided—He knew exactly what we needed,” Binh told us.

The Bailey Springs neighborhood Binh and Ruto now call home represents a unique partnership between Our Towns Habitat, the Town of Davidson and home builder JCB Urban. While most Habitat homes are built with volunteer labor, this home, along with four others in the development, was built by JCB Urban at cost for Habitat’s homeownership program. Land for the homes was donated by the Town of Davidson. The town is also providing downpayment assistance for Habitat homeowners.

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

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.”

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

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.