Less than a month after dedicating a home to a family in Hamlet, Habitat for Humanity has a new building project under way on Clark Street in Rockingham.
A crew of 25 high schoolers and nine adults from Saint Andrews Lutheran Church in Centreville, Virginia, drove over six hours to spend a week working on this project.
“We came to this area last year and worked on a Habitat project in Aberdeen,” said Amanda Eberle. “This is our church’s twenty-second year doing a week-long summer mission project. We usually look for different regions to help.”
Chris Carpenter, affiliate operations manager for Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills, met the group at the build in Aberdeen last summer and asked if they wanted to return to Richmond County this year.
“We are very excited that a group like this would travel from northern Virginia to help build a home in Richmond County,” said Carpenter.
“This is a fabulous, energetic group,” said Judie Wiggins, volunteer coordinator for Habitat. “What sets them apart is that the adults have been doing this a long time and are very skilled. They are able to give the kids great guidance.”
The group works from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. They’ll take the opportunity to hike and explore Morrow Mountain State Park on Wednesday.
After a hard day’s work, they get transported to FirstHealth Center for Health and Fitness to shower in the afternoons, before heading back to rest at East Rockingham United Methodist Church. Lunch sponsors for the build days are First Baptist Church in Rockingham, Fatz Cafe, Cafe on Main and East Rockingham Methodist Church.
“We’re staying at the church. They’ve been great to open their doors to us,” said Eberle. “We just dragged in sleeping bags and air mattresses to the Sunday school rooms — and we have some games set up upstairs.”
The group is working hard to complete as much as they can on the 1,112 square foot home with three bedrooms, and two baths. By lunchtime on the first day, one exterior wall was already standing erect.
Justin Little and Mark Gibson, both graduated seniors, lamented the end of their trips with the high school group from Saint Andrews Lutheran.
“This is my fourth, and last, trip with this group,” said Gibson. “I love everything about it — it’s so rewarding.”
Gibson, who will be attending George Mason University in the fall, said he plans to continue volunteering for Habitat through the college.
Little, who will attend Virginia Tech, said he also plans to keep volunteering.
“The people we get to meet are so thankful and appreciative, it makes it worth it,” said Little. “You really forget about the heat once you start working — it’s not until you sit down that it becomes noticeable.”
“I’ve made some really great friends volunteering though the church,” said Bryce Pangman, who will be attending James Madison University this fall — and who also plans to continue with volunteer work.
The graduating seniors leaving the group all seem to echo the same sentiment: volunteering for Habitat is something they will carry with them into this new chapter of their lives.
First-year volunteer, 16-year-old Christina Myer said she heard everyone at church talking about the builds and decided to check it out for herself.
“Right now it’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears but it will pay off,” said Myer. “This experience is really eye-opening.”
The group also raised $5,800 to donate to Habitat.
The house is being built as an Energy Star rated structure, which takes a little extra time and money but results in heating and cooling bills that shouldn’t be more than $35 a month, according to Russell Walters, construction manager for Habitat.
“With an average house payment being around $350 a month, that really puts the new homeowner in a position of being able to afford to live in a home that they own,” said Wiggins.
Toni Ratliff, of Rockingham, is looking forward to an affordable way to purchase a home for her and her 8-year-old son.
“I would never have thought that I would be eligible to even apply for this, if it wasn’t for my aunt who used to work for Habitat,” said Ratliff.
Ratliff, who works as a phlebotomist at Sandhills Regional Medical Center, credits her aunt for convincing her to try.
“I was denied the first time I applied,” she said. “I had to work with the bank to clean up my credit. That took a couple of years, but that was better for me anyway. Having good credit is important for a lot of reasons, and trying become eligible gave me the drive to get that done.”
Despite having a steady job as a professional at the hospital, Ratliff was never able to get enough funds to make purchasing a home possible. She’s been renting apartments and houses, but dreamed of a home to call her own.
“My son and I are so excited,” said Ratliff. “I’ve already talked to the neighbors, and they’re very nice people.”
Habitat will be looking for groups of volunteers to help finish the home when the visiting church group returns to Virginia. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer can contact Judie Wiggins at 910-295-1934.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.