Purple and Pink in the Parsonage
There is a room on the top floor of a house in Maury, North Carolina, that’s a little different than it was when a mid-century minister used it. Perhaps he sat near the window to write sermons while looking out onto a field of tobacco. Quaint and quiet, one imagines it to be a pastoral scene, heavy on the “past.”
The tobacco fields are filled with soybeans now, and the little room has two bright pink walls and two bright purple walls. The pink walls are splattered with purple paint, and the purple walls with pink paint, with the occasional rogue splatter on the ceiling. But the beautiful hardwood floors remain unblemished, the one aspect of the room that still belies the building’s history as a parsonage, when that sermonizing minister would have sat within those walls. Today, a 9-year-old girl named Brooke is about to take up residence in the room, and her mother, April, has given her permission to paint the walls any way she wants. “It’s her room,” April said, obviously proud to be in a position to let her daughter be creative with their home. Because they are April and Brooke’s walls. No more renting for the Williams women.
April Williams never expected to be in this position. Despite working long hours as a phlebotomist for the Red Cross, sometimes setting her alarm for 2am in order to be set up and ready to go at blood drives across Eastern NC, renting was a way of life. During her home dedication, when it came her turn to speak to those gathered in her sloping front yard, she kept her voice firm and strong. Until.
When April explained to the group that she never thought she would be able to own a home because of her life as a single mom, her voice broke. She covered her eyes and apologized to those around her, none of whom needed an apology. April Williams has had to be strong for a long time, but having a moment to breathe and think about the magnitude of this accomplishment of homeownership proved just a little too much to bear. She gathered herself quickly and the strength returned, but in that moment everyone saw what this old parsonage meant to this family.
The Williams house is one of 16 homes that Habitat NC, the state support organization (SSO) for North Carolina’s Habitat for Humanity affiliates, has taken on as part of the SECU Foundation’s Mountains-to-the-Sea Challenge. The Challenge is a $10 million partnership between the SECU Foundation and Habitat NC to build or renovate a home in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, and the SSO has taken responsibility for some of the homes in counties unserved by their own affiliate. Once the homeowner assumes a zero-percent interest loan from SECU, the money is returned to the Habitat affiliate so that another home can be built. The $10 million initiative is funded by the $1 per month maintenance fee that each SECU member pays.
For today, that monthly maintenance fee has made it possible to change April and Brooke’s lives, as well as the future for this parsonage. Once again it will be cared for and filled with life and love. And a few more vibrant colors.
By Sara Thompson, Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina