HAMLET — Habitat for Humanity on Thursday dedicated a new home to Michelle Terry, a single mother with two children, 15 and 5 years old, who had been living in a rental home that was poorly maintained and poorly heated, according to Ellen Harrison.
Harrison, family services leader for Habitat Humanity of the N.C. Sandhills, said the house was initially going to go to another family until the owner died two weeks before he was to move in, leaving the house vacant. Terry had been working her way back into the program after a three-month suspension from not meeting the required monthly hours, which Harrison said made her angry with herself.
“She goes ‘darn it’ and she came back like gang busters, attending all of her classes, doing all these hours,” Harrison said. “That’s what God did for her: she messed up, she fixed it and she got her house.”
The house has four bedrooms and is 1128 square feet, not including the porch. Each home requires about 2,000 hours of work and has about 100 people working at each site, according to Habitat Executive Director Amie Fraley.
Habitat is an organization that provides affordable homes at a zero percent mortgage rate for people who earn between 30 and 60 percent of their county’s median income. The families must first commit 300 hours of work on other homes and in home-ownership classes and are then evaluated for eligibility to purchase their own home to be built by other Habitat partners.
Fraley said that Habitat has provided 14 houses in Richmond County over a period of about eight years, as well as dozens of critical repairs for occupied homes.
One of the volunteers for Habitat, Bob Hammer, said that to him, Habitat is about “giving someone a hand up that doesn’t have the breaks that I’ve had.”
“I always had a good job, always had a roof over my head, had anything I needed,” Hammer said. “There’s a lot of people out there that are working hard that can’t break through and this helps them.”
Beverly Downey has lived in a home built by Habitat for nine years and calls the organization a blessing, especially being a single parent.
Downey lived in the JFK Drive “projects” where she was taking care of three children. To escape the drugs, shootings and break-ins — her apartment had been broken into — she was looking to move to a double-wide trailer, but she said God showed her visions of her losing the trailer.
“I knew that wasn’t the route to go and I was sitting there one day and a Habitat commercial went across the TV and I applied,” Downey said.
It took Downey about two years to complete her hours. After that, she got into a house early because she was in high need. How did her life change from there?
“My daughters grew up, went off to college, I became a foster mom…so my life changed for the good of others too,” Downey said. “Somebody was a blessing to me, my house was a blessing to me and I was a blessing to these children.
“I wanted my kids one day to leave home and always have a home to come back to and living in the projects — that’s not what that was,” Downey continued.
Downey said her mortgage payments for her Habitat house are a little more than half of what her rent was at JFK.
Satana Deberry, Hamlet native and executive director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition, was also in attendance. A graduate of Princeton and Duke Universities, Deberry highlighted the importantance of having a stable environment growing up that made her who she is: someone who is able to work to give back to the community.
“For me, being able to have a place that you call home and from which you can start your life is immensely important,” Deberry said.
She said that wages in communities like Hamlet don’t allow for families to build their homes as easily as they could 30 or 40 years ago when her parents built their house.
“Literally everything in your life revolves around where you grew up, your access to education your access to healthcare,” Deberry said. “There aren’t developers that will develop here so Habitat is really essential to the social fabric and the economic stability of the community.”
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674.