In the News 2006

 

Habitat for Humanity—bringing people home

The mood is nothing but upbeat.
As a small group gathers in the new home of Tracy and Theresa Shiflett, located off Valentine Mill Road in the historic Green Springs area, everyone brings with them a smile.
Owen, Elijah and Whitney, the young couple’s three small children, happily run around and play while the adults pause for a serious conversation.
But, it is hard to concentrate because everyone is just so excited. The reason—the Louisa County chapter of Habitat for Humanity has triumphed again.
After nine months of construction, the Shifletts moved into their new house just before the Christmas holiday. For the first time in their lives, the family has a home to call their own.
It is, said Theresa, a dream come true.
“We love this place,” she said. “We fight over who has to leave if we need [something] from the store. We just want to sit here all the time.”
Still, though the new dwelling may be paradise, it does not come without a price.
Like Belinda Johnson and Leslie Clarke, the other two habitat partners in Louisa, the Shifletts have had to work hard for what they’ve earned.
Contrary to popular belief, Habitat homes are not free, said local chapter director Estelle Rainsford.
“[Habitat] is a Christian ecumenical housing ministry,” Rainsford said. “We count on donors, volunteers and partner family mortgages to do what we do. While we sometimes wish we had more of all of the above, we have a good grassroots base here.”
When choosing a partner family, added Beth Ann Boone, Habitat steering committee chairperson, the organization makes sure that the recipients qualify and can afford their mortgage.
“Most people don’t understand what it means to be a partner family,” Boone said. “What it means is that you help build another partner’s home, build your house and pay for your house. You have a mortgage just like everyone else. You are not given anything.”
The only difference is that there is no mortgage interest for Habitat families, said Theresa, and volunteers and partners work together to construct the houses.
Often, she added, friendships are forged through the partnerships.
Although no one is forced to volunteer after they have met the required number of “sweat equity” hours, partner families generally want to help each other out, Theresa said.
“With Habitat, you not only get a house, you meet all these wonderful people,” she said. “We’ve made a lot of friends.”
One such pal is Jodi Martin, who will purchase a home through Habitat after the organization completes its current project for Beulah Lewis, who is raising her three grandchildren—BJ, Brandon and Britany.
In Lewis’ case, her family must contribute 200 volunteer hours, 50 of which could be provided by the children, towards the Chalklevel Road home, which will stand on land donated by the Louisa County Resource Council.
BJ, for one, frequented the job site so much that Habitat personnel stopped counting how much he worked, Rainsford proudly reported.
Rainsford added that it is because of these dedicated partner families, and the people who unfailingly support them, that the local organization has flourished in Louisa County.
“I love the volunteers, but the families are what keep me going,” Rainsford said. “They make all of this happen.”
And, by this time next year, she said, there will be four partner families paying mortgages, which are specifically designated to fund more houses in the area.
“Habitat is not going anywhere,” Boone said.
Rainsford agreed.
“We are here to stay,” she said.
For more information about the Louisa County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, call (540) 967-0401.

 

 

 

 

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