For Joy Mattocks, the road to home ownership was short but intense. On foot, her new Habitat for Humanity house will be a few doors down from the home she and her two children have shared with her mother, Diana Hill, in a rural patch of Onslow County. On the calendar, it has been barely more than a year since Mattocks and her children began the trek toward a home of their own. “I saw the Habitat decal on a truck,” she recalls. “I got the number so I could call these guys and see. I filled out the application and turned everything in. They called me back, told me they had accepted my application. “I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe it.”
On April 14, Good Friday, Mattocks, 40, Dequisha, 21, and Rueben, 12, walked with her mother and a few close friends across a field with a low bramble of wild strawberry plants underfoot to break ground for a three-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot home. Mattocks has already earned “sweat equity” hours with work on another Habitat home. “I helped on a house. Put the siding on. That was fun!”
She pledges that she is “going to do my share and then do extra” by donating her extra hours to help a single father get his Habitat home.
“God put it in my heart,” Mattocks declares. “When God blesses you, you’ve got to help somebody else out.” For Kris Durham, executive director of Crystal Coast Habitat for Humanity, Joy’s selection for a Habitat project was an easy choice. “The Family Selection Committee highly recommended Joy” after extensive interviews, Durham says. “She’s impressed me quite a bit. She’s put in the sweat equity, and put money in an escrow account. That’s not easy to do when you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck. She’s worked in two different places. She’s determined.”
The Mattocks home is the 97th home for the Crystal Coast Habitat affiliate. It’s also one of 100 being built as part of the “Mountains-to-the-Sea Challenge” to place a Habitat home in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties over three years. The Challenge is funded by a $10 million grant from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation. After each house is built and the client family assumes a no-interest loan, SECU Foundation essentially assumes the mortgage, returning the funds to the affiliate so that another Habitat home can be built.
Durham finds the economy of the area challenging for people of modest means.
“It’s a tourist area and a military area,” she explains. “The military has a housing stipend, and that drives up the cost of rentals.” It also brings a long wait list for those seeking affordable rental housing. “Even though our program takes a couple of years, people are willing to sign up, because in the long run they have a stable home for their families.”
And while the tourism-heavy economy of this coastal area brings jobs, they’re most often not high-paying jobs. But none of that has stopped Mattocks. Those who know her best agree that Joy is an apt name. She works in the deli department of a Lowes Foods store, and Pastor Marcie Friesner of TJ’s Church in Swansboro—founded and run by teenagers; the name references Timothy and Jeremiah, two of the youngest in the Bible who followed Jesus’ ministry—says that the challenge of raising two children on a limited income has not daunted Mattocks’ spirit. Friesner met Mattocks about four years ago when Rueben was a second-grader and needed tutoring in reading and math.“We bonded immediately,” Friesner recalls. “Rueben works hard, and he is an excellent student.” Rueben is a sixth-grader at Hunters Creek Middle School in Jacksonville and plays trombone in the band.
Daughter Dequisha graduates from Carteret Community College on Aug. 9 with a degree that allows her to work as a medical assistant. She’s excited about enrolling in a graduate program in psychology at N.C. Central University in Durham. Optimism and a strong work ethic run deep in the Mattocks family.
“Joy has seen a lot of cloudy days, but she has always looked for the sun, always has a smile on her face,” Friesner says. “It’s really cool to see that. She has come out victorious.”