Nine months after the initial groundbreaking at the Almost Heaven Habitat for Humanity house site in Durbin, three homes were dedicated and keys were handed over to their new owners in a special ceremony January 17.
AHHH CEO and Executive Director Michelle Connor addressed the crowd and expressed her thanks to the volunteers for their dedication and love for the new homeowners.
“The reason we’re successful is because of individuals like you who dedicate your time, your effort, your energy and your money, and give of your life, literally, to other families who are in need,” she said. “The families that we had the opportunity to serve are hard working, dedicated families who have given up a significant portion of their lives to be able to make a difference in their own lives and the community.”
Conner explained that, contrary to public belief, Habitat does not simply give away houses. The families selected for Habitat housing put in “sweat equity” hours building their own houses and the houses of others.
“They have literally put in hundreds of sweat equity hours,” she said. “The Snelson family, Jessica, a single mom, has put in over four hundred sweat equity hours to help her family, her children, to have a safe place to live. That is commendable, admirable and I know that is no small task when you don’t have someone else to help care for your kids.”
Willie and Helen Hendrick together put in more than 900 hours and the Hendrick family – Ray, Jennifer, Justin, Dalton and Wyatt – put in more than 1,300 sweat equity hours on their home and the other two homes.
“I would love to be your guys’ neighbor,” Conner said. “You have really learned to help each other, and I am really proud and humbled to be standing here today.”
AHHH board member Jason Bauserman presented each family with the key to their home and gave each a chance to speak.
“I saw here among the partner families, they were here helping each other,” Bauserman said. “That’s building community, when people start working with other people. You’re coming together in unity which we really need in this community, to learn unity and not division. I know it’s going to continue because they have a love with each other here and they are going to be living in this little community. I would like for them to spread that love and that feeling among others here in the community. Just keep passing on that spirit.”
Ray Hendrick spoke on behalf of his family and said it has been a long process to get to this point.
“I spent a lot of hours down here,” he said. “I missed a lot of my kids’ sporting events to build them a house. Put a lot of work in for my mom and dad, for Jessica. I’d like to thank everybody, Habitat, all the volunteers. Without you all I wouldn’t have a home.”
Jessica Snelson, single mother of Shan and Cordell shared her appreciation, as well.
“I want to thank everybody for coming and helping us,” she said through tears. “Me and my kids went this winter without heat, without water and now that’s something I don’t ever have to worry about again. I really appreciate it. Everybody in this family has helped me a lot. [Habitat] is a family to me.”
Finally, Willie Hendrick, the “class clown” of the group spoke for his wife and himself.
“You guys, you all helped a lot this week getting everything ready for this and I appreciate all of it,” he said. “The first group that came here to help build our house, they were just high school kids and now you see what I’ve got. I’ve got a home.”
Along with opening their homes for the first time, the families also had a ribbon cutting to unveil their new little community.
The families were presented with Bibles, candles and special gifts to start their lives in their new homes.
Pocahontas County Commission President David Fleming shared the importance of affordable housing in the county, as well as his well wishes to the families. Volunteer and Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinator Judy Fuller read a greeting from U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, III, who could not attend.
Offering prayers over the houses and families were Robert Mann, Interim Pastor of Northern Pocahontas Charge United Methodist Church; Pastor Davis Collins, of Durbin Church of the Brethren; and Pastor Carl Greathouse of Calvary Gospel Church in Durbin.
Members of the men’s lacrosse team at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, were on hand to put finishing touches on the houses last week.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org