On a perfect Sunday afternoon in late August, against the great green expanse of the North Carolina mountains, Cherrie Patrick celebrated a dream that she admits she never thought could come true: The dedication of a pretty new home for her and her two youngest sons.
“I was born and raised right here in Spruce Pine,” Patrick said, sitting on a leather sofa in her furnished living room, with clusters of family photos and a napping cat nearby; she had moved in a few weeks earlier. “I grew up in poverty,” she recalled. “I thought this was out of my reach.” Her first marriage ended in 1996; she remarried and had Kyle; along with Cory, Cody and Casey, that made four sons. Then, in 2003, her second husband died. “It was very painful,” Patrick admitted, recalling the hardships of her life. “But it kind of made me who I am today. I’m stronger.” She went back to school in her 40s and earned an associate degree in human services. Today she manages two apartment complexes that provide affordable housing.
“I really didn’t think I would qualify for Habitat,” she said. “But a friend pushed me to apply.” She and her sons, and the sons’ friends, worked on the house, providing the 400 hours of “sweat equity” that Habitat for Humanity requires.
All of the work and time has paid off. “It looks amazing,” Patrick said, taking it all in. With three bedrooms, one-and-half baths and an expansive kitchen/dining/living area, the house is designed for comfort.
It’s also one of the 100-plus homes – one in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties, plus a few – that will be built as part of the Mountains-to-the-Sea Challenge, a project of Habitat North Carolina in conjunction with the State Employees Credit Union Foundation. The SECU Foundation has put up $10 million for the Challenge. Funds are made available to the Habitat affiliates, and, once the house is completed, the client family assumes a no-interest mortgage from SECU. The money for the home is immediately returned to the affiliate so that another home can be built.
At the dedication, Gary Moore, an advisory member of SECU’s Spruce Pine branch, spoke, saying that the Challenge “embraces the spirit and passion of SECU members. This is what can be accomplished when people come together to build a home for someone in need.” Moore explained the model for funding the SECU Foundation: Every SECU member pays one dollar a month in maintenance fees.
“This is a joyous occasion,” said Robin Warden, secretary for fundraising and publicity for the Mitchell-Yancey affiliate. “This stands as a tribute to the power of giving. Thanks to all of you who have played a role. Thanks to SECU for their partnership. About 100 volunteers have worked on this house.” “This house fits perfectly with the needs and desires of Cherrie Patrick,” said Gary Ray, the Habitat affiliate’s board president.
And on this sunny day, a perfect note was sounded as a small group of shape-note singers, in the best tradition of Appalachian culture, broke into an a cappella rendition of a haunting folk hymn.
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
When I was sinking down …
Habitat for Humanity North Carolina