For Wanda Weaver, the great American dream was driven by love for her elderly mother.
At the dedication Nov. 19 of her Habitat for Humanity home in a tidy neighborhood in Beulaville on a brilliant autumn day, Weaver struggled to contain her emotions. From her front porch she looked out over the crowd of Habitat volunteers, friends and clergy who had gathered on the front lawn to wish her well.
“It’s such a blessing to me that my mother will have a place to lay her head and doesn’t have to worry about where she is going to go,” she said.
Moments later, Annie Weaver carefully made her way up the front steps – designed with shallow risers to accommodate her unsteady gait – to join her daughter, and Wanda turned the key to the front door and stepped inside to be the first to see their nearly fully furnished home. Before Wanda closed the door behind them to savor the moment, she poked her head out.
“We will be back.”
Those last few steps were the end of a journey that began just over a year ago when the Duplin County Habitat affiliate, which is entirely staffed by volunteers, partnered with the Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, with its larger staff and resources, to build the Weavers’ home. The house is part of the “Mountains to the Sea Challenge,” a $10 million initiative of the State Employees Credit Union Foundation that provides mortgage loans to build a Habitat home in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
“This is still the great American dream,” said Greg Kirkpatrick, Habitat North Carolina executive director. “Habitat makes it happen for people who don’t have a place in the market to buy a home. What the SECU has done is astonishing. It has a primary interest in housing for low-income folks. I am grateful to SECU and you all and the people of Beaulaville. This makes you want to move to Beaulaville.”
Habitat homes are not free; homeowners must put in “sweat equity” in joining the volunteer construction workers. Loans are low or no-interest, and because so much of the labor and materials are donated, costs are held to a minimum – and that keeps the mortgage payment within the means of families of limited income.
For Davis and her mother, the dream also means never having to worry about when a landlord is going to tell them that they must move. And for Wanda Davis, her mother’s security is a top priority. Her income as a certified nursing assistant gave her limited options for home-ownership. So she turned to Habitat for Humanity.
“About a year ago, we told Wanda she would get a home,” said Gary Davis, board president of Habitat of Duplin County. Work began in January with the clearing of the lot on Cavenaugh Street, which included taking down a large gum tree.
“We would not be here today without the SECU Foundation Challenge,” Davis added. “We teamed with Cape Fear Habitat, with Steve Spain and his staff.” Cape Fear was a great help with family selection, briefing the family on what was expected of them, ordering material and also with coordinating the many donors – corporate, religious, civic and individuals – the program lists well over 100 who were active participants and donors – “using their talent, money and expertise.”
The partnership between the Duplin and Cape Fear Habitat affiliates has been a two-way street, Davis said, with Duplin’s volunteers putting in many hours at Cape Fear builds.
“So this is a bit of payback.”
In true small-town fashion, Beulaville welcomed Wanda and Annie Weaver with housewarming gifts that included a rich afghan knit by Lois Hanson; a bed runner created by the Island Creek Quilting Club, and a wooden plate and bowl that was crafted by Bobbie Eiler from that gum tree that was cut down before the home could be built.
For Annie Weaver the house is a solid symbol of tranquility in a life that had been marked by uncertainty since moving to the area three years ago from Baltimore following the death of her husband.
“Everyone is positive. It’s a Christian atmosphere” at the Habitat build site, she marveled. “They put so much into it. And no one was paid.” Annie Weaver also put in some “sweat equity” on Wednesdays and Saturdays, mostly cleaning up the house after a day of construction.
“I like to keep things clean.”
Now she hopes to have time to indulge her simple pleasures in the comfort and security of her new home: oatmeal cookies and old Westerns on TV. “‘The Virginian,’ ‘Gunsmoke’’’ she reels off as among her favorites.
She admits that rural North Carolina was an adjustment after life in Baltimore. But Beulaville is home now, and “I don’t want to go back to Baltimore.”
Habitat for Humanity North Carolina