From a Camper to a Home in Jackson County
Above, Pictured in front of the Savages’ new home, L to R: Jim Schwalm, Senior Vice President, Sylva Branch, SECU; Pastor Lester Hardesty; Chris Brogan, Harrah’s; Landy Savage; John Savage; Danny Savage; and Greg Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina.
Landy Savage was on her way to her mom’s house after work one evening when she got the call. “Our UPS man called me and said our house was on fire. By the time we got there, there wasn’t anything left.” She and her husband, John, and 16 year-old son, Danny, moved in temporarily with Landy’s grandmother, but that house is small and her grandmother already had other folks living with her. Another family member offered a different possibility: a 32-ft camper that he had just bought and was willing to let them use. “There’s not a whole lot of room to move around,” says John with a chuckle. But the Savages knew what a gift it was to have a roof over their heads, no matter how tight the space.
Then one day, Landy’s manager at the Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee, NC, asked her if she’d ever thought about applying for a Habitat home. Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina was trying to find a family in Jackson County to complete one of the final homes in the “Mountains-to-the-Sea Challenge,” a project sponsored by the SECU Foundation to build or renovate a home in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Habitat NC had reached out to Harrah’s, since the casino is one of the largest employers in the area. And Landy’s manager thought of her. He brought her the application, she filled it out, and within days she was in touch with Habitat NC’s Executive Director, discussing what to look for in an existing home on the market in the area that Habitat NC could purchase, rehab, and then sell to the Savages for a zero-percent-interest mortgage that SECU would then step in to purchase and service. Through this process, SECU returns to Habitat the money invested, freeing up Habitat to reinvest it in more affordable housing.
Landy kept seeing houses listed for sale, but they always had something that made them too difficult to rehab, like a crumbling foundation or an impassable mountain road. Then she saw it. A cute little house with a perfect yard, complete with a fire pit and benches and plenty of space for their outdoor animals. “The minute I walked in I thought ‘This is home,” she said. “It’s just a comfortable little house. You walk in and you immediately feel relaxed.” Their son is excited to have his own room again, after so many months sharing a 32-ft camper with his parents. He helped his family with their “sweat equity” by painting his bedroom almost completely by himself, and pitching in with the painting in other spaces as well. Anything to get them in the house faster.
When asked what this little house means to them, John didn’t have to think at all. “Home. We have a home,” he said immediately. Landy elaborated “We’ll have a place to just enjoy being, to relax after a long day at work. We can have family over and our two older daughters can bring our granddaughters to visit.” And so this comfortable house, that invites those who enter it to relax and feel welcome, will bring the Savages “home” once again. “A lot of prayers have been answered with this house,” mused Landy. “A lot of prayers.”