The keys that were passed to Mechelle and Greg Goins on Saturday, June 10, were familiar ones that fit a familiar house. But the simple ceremony signaled a new security for the Goins family in a house they have called home for nine years. In 2012, late on a fateful Thanksgiving Day, the Goins family’s solid footing in life – a tidy home at 302 West Roswell Street in Troy – was put in jeopardy in just a few seconds. Their daughter Jasmine was driving a tiny Kia home from a feast at her grandmother’s home. Greg Goins was in the passenger seat and sons Jailyn and Ryan were in the back.
“We could hear it,” recalls Mechelle, who was still in her mother’s house. “It” was a head-on collision just up the street. The couple’s children escaped the crumpled car with scrapes and bruises, but Greg was pinned under the dashboard with crushed ribs and a crushed femur. “He still has a limp,” Mechelle says, a reminder of the accident and the 18 days spent in a Charlotte hospital, including extensive rehab work. It also left him unable to continue at his job in dietary services at Sandy Ridge Nursing Home in Candor – putting the financial burden of the family entirely on Mechelle.
“We never missed a payment,” Mechelle says with quiet pride. That put the family in good stead with the Troy Neighborhood Redevelopment Corp., which had built the house, and its leader, Greg Zephir. But the financial burden of going from a two-income family to one income meant that home upkeep was often delayed. And that’s when Habitat and the TNRC joined forces. Cemita Gibbs, the Stanly County Habitat affiliate’s executive director, had been looking for a family in Montgomery County for the State Employees Credit Union Foundation’s “Mountains to the Sea Challenge,” an ambitious project to build a Habitat for Humanity home in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
The SECU Foundation has put up $10 million to fund construction of the homes. Once a home is completed, the homeowners assume the mortgage through SECU, which then returns the money to the affiliate so that another home can be built. “The SECU Challenge was a great opportunity for us to make this happen quickly, without going through a whole build process,” Gibbs explained. “And it gave us a chance to make a name for ourselves in Montgomery County.”
The Stanly Habitat affiliate fixed sagging floors, a rotting back porch and steps. They replaced the bathroom floor and took up carpet and fixed doors. The Goins family got a new refrigerator, and a hood over the stove with an exhaust fan – a special request from Mechelle because, “Everything in the house smelled like what I cooked.”
The Goins family put in the “sweat equity” hours required by Habitat at the Stanly affiliate’s Habitat ReStore. Mechelle worked on Saturdays, her day off from her job at a facility providing day programs for men of retirement age. The only problem, she says with a smile, is that when she was done with work she spent too much time shopping at ReStore. “Oh, I had a buggy full,” she quips.
Over nearly a decade at the West Roswell Street home, facing hard times, tragedy and triumph have left the Goins family and those who know them best with a sense of purpose. “302 was destined to be the Goins family’s home,” Zephir told the crowd, marveling at the determination and faith of the couple.
Habitat for Humanity North Carolina