The crowd that came out to Deondra Brown’s new home for a dedication Thursday, October. 26, just about lined the walls of her spacious living room. There were friends and family, joined by representatives of Habitat for Humanity and the State Employees Credit Union.
The house on Halifax Street in Williamston is a rehab; it’s part of the Mountains-to-the-Sea Challenge – a program of Habitat for Humanity North Carolina to build a home in each of the state’s 100 counties. It’s funded by a $10 million grant from the SECU Foundation. Once the Habitat affiliate completes the house, the homeowner assumes a zero-percent mortgage from SECU, which then returns the money to the affiliate so that another home can be built.
For Brown, an energetic and buoyant mother of a daughter, Ty’Hiera, 10, and a son Jace, 1, the 150 hours of “sweat equity” Habitat requires of homeowners were not daunting. The house was basically sound and needed mostly cosmetic upgrades. It’s a family affair, with Brown’s grandmother helping with the painting and her grandfather coming out regularly to mow the expansive lawn.
“It took me a long time to get here,” Brown told the crowd, becoming emotional as she described finding that her credit was not good enough to meet Habitat’s requirements. “I worked on my credit, and I knew that I was not ready, so I was just going to wait.” Then she got the call from Habitat telling her that, with her credit numbers up, she qualified for a house. “It did take her a while to get credit to where she qualified,” said Greg Kirkpatrick, executive director of Habitat for Humanity North Carolina. “She proved that she could do it. She sacrificed and her children sacrificed.”
There was plenty of emotional support on this emotional day for Brown.Pastor Darren R. Whitehurst of First Baptist Church of Kelford gave the invocation, directing the crowd to “Touch the cabinets, the lights, the windows. This is the Lord’s doing and it’s marvelous in our eyes. And a house divided cannot stand. Don’t let anything ever come in that’s going to separate from you from the love of God.”
Brent Glover of the Williamston office of SECU spoke, offering Brown a gift and a metaphor. “We brought you some knockout roses. Have you ever planted one? They’re tough. They weather anything. And if you put them in the right place they thrive.”
Habitat for Humanity North Carolina