Habitat Home Offers Fresh Start for Statesville Family

Rafael and Elvira's new home

Rafael invites dedication guests into his new home.

The new Habitat home Rafael and Elvira dedicated today means many things–for the family, it means they can escape overcrowding in a two-bedroom apartment. For Rafael, it means he will have something to leave to his children. And for Graciela, it means more independence.

The small apartment where the family has lived the last 10 years makes it hard for Graciela to get around. The doorways were too narrow for her to get from room to room without assistance. She also could not use her motorized wheelchair, because the wheels got caught on the carpet. And, the entry to the home had stairs with an unsteady portable wheelchair ramp providing many obstacles for Graciela to leave or enter her own home.

With the new Habitat home they helped build, all of that has changed.

“Your support, sacrifice and commitment has helped lead this family to a new chapter in their lives,” Interim Executive Director Denise Copeland told volunteers and donors gathered for the dedication. “Today, this family begins a fresh start that will bring them safety, security and unity.”

Rafael and Elvira came to the United States from Mexico 14 years ago, when Graciela was very young, knowing they would find better healthcare for her, and better economic opportunity. Rafael has faithfully worked the same job at Carris Reels here in Statesville for all of those 14 years—they haven’t kicked him out yet, he jokes.

Rafael and Elvira have worked hard to see their dream of homeownership come true, attending homeowner classes, helping build homes for their neighbors, and finally, hammering the nails that would build their own home. And, as Elvira learned, it takes some pretty long nails to build a house!

Elvira would tell you that her favorite construction task was, well, everything, because she knew she was building something that would be theirs. For Rafael, watching the walls go up on framing day was extra special, because he could see the house taking shape.

“Each and every one here has somehow, some way, contributed to our house and allowing us to become homeowners, so I thank you all,” Rafael told dedication guests. “We’re so happy to fulfill our dream of homeownership after 14 years of renting.”

Throughout the building process, the excitement of the couple’s children has been palpable. Marco, 10, and Rafael Jr., 5, would ask constantly to go by the house and check on its progress. Once doors were installed and the house was locked up on non-work days, the kids would peer through the window to catch a glimpse of their future home. Now, they no longer have to peer through the windows, but can turn the key and enter their new home.

Habitat Experience Inspires Alex to Give Back

When Alex was growing up, she spent her whole childhood in the same house. From that experience, she knew the importance of stability, and she wanted to provide that same sense of stability to her daughter Calynn,7, and son Carsyn, 5.

She also knew she was wasting her money on rent, and dreamed of one day owning a home. But until her friend Sierra, who owns a Habitat home across the street, encouraged her to attend an information session at Our Towns Habitat, that dream seemed very distant.

Today, as we dedicate the new home she helped build, that dream is not distant—it’s here.

There are a lot of things about this new home that excite Alex—being able to paint the walls however she likes, decorate however she likes, and just having something she can call her own.

But she is most excited about watching her children grow up here, in a quiet, safe neighborhood, where they can take evening walks together.

Alex’s experience partnering with Our Towns Habitat, working alongside volunteers, has inspired her to continue volunteering with Our Towns. She hopes to spend many Saturdays helping build homes for her new neighbors to come in Burke Circle.

Her big dream, though, is to travel on one of our Global Village programs to Guatemala, and help build affordable housing solutions there.

“I enjoyed seeing how people, who could be doing anything with their Saturday, would come out and help,” Alex told us. “I know there are still good people out here who want to help.”

At Our Towns Habitat, we are also amazed every day as we see how people, working together to share God’s love, can build homes, communities and hope.

Determination Led Fabiola to Become Homeowner

Fabiola is not the kind of person who lets obstacles stand in the way of achieving her goals.

She was still in high school when she had her first child, and had to quit school so she could work and support her baby. But she knew need a high school diploma for better job opportunities, so two years ago, Fabiola earned her GED–while working two jobs, as a single mom of three boys.

But Fabiola also knew need to do more to build a better future for her boys. She couldn’t keep paying rent that was too high for an apartment that was too small. So she decided to knock that obstacle out of the way, too.

Knowing nothing about Habitat for Humanity as an organization, she took a chance and stopped in our office on her way home from work. She had noticed our street sign advertising home ownership programs. She acted on faith and walked through the front door for information.

Once Fabiola qualified for our homeownership program, there were more obstacles to overcome. Still working two jobs, and expecting her fourth child, Fabiola worked hard to earn her sweat equity hours. She earned many of those hours assisting in our office, and became a familiar face to many of us.

Her oldest son, Christopher, now 15, helped out by watching the younger boys—Jose, 10, Diego, 8, and baby Luis.

When work began on her new home, Fabiola faced the obstacles of home construction with the same resolve she used to get her GED. Fabiola says that roofing—a task many people are afraid to tackle—was her favorite part of building her house.

“At first I was kind of scared, but then I got used to it and it was so much fun,” she told us. “It made me feel like I was really doing something to build my house.”

Fabiola’s determination comes from a desire to show her boys they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.

Fabiola has done just that, as she celebrates buying her first home. She will move her four boys from a small two-bedroom apartment to this beautiful new, four-bedroom home. We celebrate this milestone thanks to Fabiola’s commitment to partner with Habitat, and thanks to the commitment of volunteers and donors who also partnered with Habitat to ensure everyone can have a decent, affordable place to live.




Max and Jessica’s Home Will Be Full of Love

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There is no doubt that Max and Jessica’s Habitat house will be full of love and laughter. We were blessed to have partnered with this couple to build a new home for their SIX children.

Max and Jessica both come from large families, and love parenting their own large crew—Nathaniel, 16, Maximiano, 13, Yahaira, 11, twins Gabriel and Gabriela, 9, and Jeremiah, 7. They work hard to care for their beautiful family—Max as a mechanic and Jessica as a certified nursing assistant.

We all know the challenges of finding affordable housing for working class families. For large families like Max and Jessica’s, the challenge is even greater—rent is higher and landlords can be discriminatory. The largest home they’ve even been able to afford had three bedrooms, which left all four boys sharing one room. Often, they’ve been turned away by landlords simply because of their family size, told their children would “destroy” the home.

In addition to high rent, the family has dealt with landlords who refused to make repairs—including a broken water line that led to a $1,500 water bill and the development of black mold.

Max and Jessica are both originally from Chicago, growing up in the neighborhood of Little Village, which they loved. But as much as they loved the neighborhood they called home, they couldn’t find work to support their family. Eventually, they moved to North Carolina so Max could take a job in Huntersville as a mechanic.

Max and Jessica love being here and feel much safer than they did in Chicago. But even with better jobs here, decent, affordable housing was still out of reach—until a co-worker talked to Jessica about Habitat. Jessica tells us when they received the call from Our Towns Habitat letting them know they had been accepted into our program, “it was like a weight was lifted from our shoulders….we had hope.”

But even after getting accepted, the family had a long road ahead. Because they couldn’t find an affordable place with a short-term lease while they built their home—alongside our partners at Davidson United Methodist Church—the family has been separated. Jessica and the children are staying with one friend, while Max stays with another. With their work schedules, many nights the only way Max gets to see the kids is through video chat on their phones.

On top of that, Max and Jessica have worked hard to earn their 400 sweat equity hours—which is not an easy feat for parents juggling full-time jobs and caring for six children.

But in their new Habitat home, Max and Jessica begin a new leg of their journey. They have worked hard, with the help of many volunteers and donors, to build a more stable future for their beautiful family. They now know that the search for an affordable place to live will no longer be a constant worry, and they can focus on what’s truly important—raising their children to be happy, strong and healthy. Thank you all for helping Max and Jessica build strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable housing.

Nicky Built Her Own Home, So Her Family Can Build Memories

“Home” means so many things. It’s where we build our lives and where we build memories.

With the dedication of their new Habitat home, Nicky and her two sons can begin building new lives in an affordable home that Nicky helped build with her own hands. Micah, 8, already has big plans for this house—he can’t wait to have friends over for sleepovers and play hide and seek. His older brother Jeremiah, 12, can have a basketball hoop for the first time.
Mom Nicky sees how significant these “little things” are to her sons, and knows these are the memories they will look back on and treasure. Being able to give her boys a place of their own is something she has prayed for, and she says that “without God, I don’t think this would be possible.”

The family will be moving out of a cramped two-bedroom townhouse with maintenance and health concerns. The room the boys now share is caving in, and mold in the bathroom aggravates their allergies. Six years ago, Nicky found herself homeless due to domestic violence, and had to move in with her mom and stepdad.

“This marks a brand new beginning us, and gives us a house to call our own, in a nice, safe neighborhood,” Nicky said.

Before partnering with Habitat, Nicky had never tackled anything like the work required to build her own home. But she is dedicated and goal-driven, so she dove in to the work and learned many new skills along the way. She loved seeing the walls go up on framing day, and says that the labor she put in to building her home makes her appreciate it all the more.

Now, she is looking forward to making the home her own—having the freedom to paint her walls and hang pictures and mirrors. Jeremiah plans to decorate his room in a Dallas Cowboys theme, and Micah is deciding which room Disney, the family’s poodle mix, will claim. And we are all looking forward to seeing how the family—including Disney—will grow and thrive in their new Habitat home.

Brothers Came Together to Help Build a Home for Their Mom, Sister

Nearly 10 years ago, Gregoria and her son David travelled to North Carolina from their home in Seattle to visit family. They felt welcomed and decided to move here, looking for a new start.

But since then, they have struggled to find a decent, affordable place to live. They have moved three times since, and the rentals they could afford were too small, poorly maintained and sometimes in unsafe neighborhoods.
Gregoria learned about Our Towns Habitat’s homeownership program through our ReStores, where she shopped to save money on things the family needed for the household. The family applied with Habitat after the mobile home they rented had a significant fire in the kitchen, forcing yet another move.

The mobile home was older and had not been kept up; the fire sparked because of faulty wiring. The family found another rental—a cramped two-bedroom—but they knew it was time to find a better answer.

That answer was to partner with Habitat to build their own affordable home. And it took the whole family coming together to make it happen. Gregoria is disabled and on limited income, so her son David is buying the home with her, and they will own it together.

David and his older brother, John, who moved to North Carolina a few years after Gregoria and David, have together worked hard to earn most of the “sweat equity” hours the family needed, so that Gregoria could care for their younger sister, Persia. At age 6, Persia is still affectionately referred to as the “baby” of the family.

John recalls helping his father do construction work when he was younger, but said, “to build our own home is really an experience.”

John is a full-time student at Central Piedmont Community College, and is just a few credits away from his business administration degree. David is also a student at CPCC, studying criminal justice while working full-time. They both say that having stable housing will help them focus on their studies, in turn helping them better support their family.

But what the whole family is most excited about as they move into their new home is being able to provide a home for Persia to grow up in—and a yard where she can plant the garden she has always dreamed of.

Strength of Family & Friends Supported Shameca

Often when we talk about affordable, we speak of unacceptable choices people make when housing costs too much. Rent or groceries? Rent or the light bill? Rent or medicine?

Shameca was staring down that choice when she came to Our Towns Habitat. Diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, sarcoidosis, in 2005, Shameca takes a regime of medication to help keep the disease under control. With continued hikes in her rent, Shameca could not afford to pay her bills and still buy her medicine—and skipping her medicine was simply not an option.
So, after living on her own since the age of 19, Shameca and her two children moved back in with her mom. By this time, she had already been accepted in to our homeownership program, and knew she was on her way to a home of her own.

“My mom has been with me all along this journey,” Shameca told us. “She has been out here every Saturday, even working on other people’s homes—she’s my rock.”

Shameca’s medical challenges have made that journey all the more challenging. Sarcoidosis starts in one organ—for Shameca it was her lungs—then begins attacking other organs. Shameca’s case is aggressive, and she has faced multiple surgeries, including cervical fusion and gallbladder surgery. She is now undergoing treatments she hopes will help her avoid surgery on her lower back.

Shameca is fiercely independent and used to taking care of others—she worked for 15 years as a home health CNA. Learning to accept help from others when she is not physically able to do things is not easy for her. But has learned to ask for help when she needs it, and she draws a beautiful analogy from her own physical struggles to describe her support network.

“I like to think of them as little individual pieces of my spine that hold me up when I can’t do it myself,” she said. Many family members have rolled up their sleeves and gone to work to help her build her home. Her father, brother, sisters and even cousins have all volunteered to build.

When asked to pick her favorite part of building her home, Shameca said it was “everything—there wasn’t one thing that I didn’t like to do.” But for her, framing day, when she watched the walls of her home to up, was the day that made things real for her.

While Shameca is grateful that her mom took her family in, she is looking forward to regaining some of her independence with her new home—and building a stable foundation for her son and daughter. Before her daughter Chanazia, 14, was even born, Shameca made a promise to her son Chad, 21, that one day they would have a house—a place where they can be comfortable, create new memories and that will always be theirs. Today, she fulfills that pledge.

Shameca’s home was generously sponsored by Publix Super Market Charities. Publix has donated $5.5 million to Habitat for Humanity affiliates across the Southeast, helping to build 60 new houses in 2017 for families in need of decent, affordable housing. Additional financial support was provided by Well Fargo and the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences’ Collegiate Challenge team.

You’re Helping Break the Cycle of Poverty


Because of your support, Our Towns Habitat for Humanity dedicated three new homes last month. Thanks to you, Shameca and her two children have a new home in Statesville; Gregoria and her three children have a new home in Cornelius; and Nicky and her two sons have a new home in Mooresville.

One of those homes belongs to the family of a 6-year-old girl named Persia. When I asked Persia, “Which room is yours?” Persia answered, “The BIGGEST one!”

Compared to the average bedroom built in America today, Persia’s room is a smaller than most. However, the impact Persia’s room will have on her life is tremendous.

According to a recent study, children growing up in overcrowded housing have lower math and reading scores, complete fewer years of school, are more likely to fall behind in school, and are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers.1

Persia’s future is bright. Because her mother owns an affordable home, in a safe neighborhood, Persia can make big plans, and she is more likely to experience more out of life than children who are still trapped in poverty housing.

According to a report funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on the impact of affordable housing on upward mobility, 70 percent of people born at the bottom of the income ladder never reach the middle rung; 43 percent remain at the bottom.2

Without your support, children like Persia could feel doomed to becoming a statistic. The hopelessness of being stuck in poverty can overwhelm anyone, especially children.

Thank you for making a difference in Persia’s life and in the lives of those whose home construction you are supporting. We plan to build 15 homes this year. Each home will have a different mixture of ages, backgrounds and dreams, but there is one thing that all our homeowners share in common. All of them can have hope because of you.

Thank you,

Jeff Porter
Executive Director

1 http://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/19cfbe_c1919d4c2bdf40929852291a57e5246f.pdf
2 http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/2000428-Housing-Policy-Levers-to-Promote-Economic-Mobility.pdf

Faith & Family Carried Shanrhonda Through Habitat Homeowner Journey

Dedicating a new home is such a joyous event that we tend to forget about the uphill journey it takes our homeowners to reach this point. From the point a homeowner, like Shanrhonda, applies for our program until the day that we hand over the keys usually takes two years.

During those two years, our homeowners attend financial education classes, learn how to maintain their home, work in the office or ReStore, help build houses for other Habitat homeowners and then, finally, the finish line comes in sight when they are able to start building their very own home.
All of that work has to add up to 400 hours of what we call “sweat equity.” That’s 400 hours of time our new homeowner Shanrhonda committed to working with us, in addition to her other responsibilities—working full time at Barium Springs Home for Children and caring for two sons, Richard, 15, and Henry, 12.

There were times along this journey that Shanrhonda admits she wanted to give up. But two things kept her going—her boys and her faith.

“My sons saw me trying so hard, so I didn’t want to give up,” Shanrhonda said. “I wanted to show my boys what can happen when you work for it.”

She also relied on her favorite verse, Phillipians 4:13, which says, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

In this new home, Richard and Henry will have rooms of their own—rooms that they both helped paint. And when Shanrhonda crosses these floors carrying a load of laundry, she won’t help but remember—she laid these floors with her own hands.

Worth Every Drop of Sweat

Tony and Margaret’s new home represents hundreds of hours of hard work, but for them, it was worth every drop of sweat. For the first time, they will have a place to call their own—and their daughter Marilyn, 17, will have a room of her own.
For Tony, who is 10 years older than Margaret, a home of their own represents security, knowing that if something happens to him, his wife and daughter will have a decent, affordable place to live.

Margaret says this house is something she never imagined they would have—she calls it a blessing. And while Tony thinks about what the house means to Margaret, she thinks about how this new house will be better for her husband’s health. Tony is diabetic, and Margaret worries about him navigating the stairs of the townhouse where they live now if his blood sugar were to drop. The townhouse also has mold, and Tony is allergic.

Thanks to their homeowner education classes and the work they did building the house, the couple learned how to care for their new home, including how to protect against moisture and prevent problems like mold in the future.

Earning their sweat equity hours was not easy for the couple. Both Margaret and Tony work at Wal-Mart, but on different shift schedules. Tony was working third shift when they were taking homeowner classes, so he would go to class, then straight to work. Nearly every day they had off from work was spent getting in their hours.

“It was worth all the work, 100%,” Margaret said. “It was worth working for, to get what we’re having.”