It was just a house key, silver, glittering in the October light as the president of Halifax-Northampton Habitat for Humanity held it up high. But to Taneshia Mangum the moment was so fraught with emotion that she turned away from the small crowd of well-wishers gathered in front of her tidy new home on a gravel road in Gaston.
She needed a minute to compose herself.
“This is a dream come true,” she said. “Thank you all.”
Then she quoted from the Book of Joshua.
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Mangum’s home is one of 100 – one in each county of North Carolina – being built as part of the State Employees Credit Union’s Mountains to the Sea Challenge. The SECU Foundation has put up $10 million in mortgage funds, and, for Jim Lander, president of the Habitat affiliate, the SECU program is a solid step toward his goal of ramping up new home construction from about one a year to two. Halifax-Northampton Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1989 and has put 25 families into new or completely refurbished homes.
“People think Habitat gives houses away,” Lander said. But, once a partner family is chosen, each adult must contribute 200 hours of work time, either at the Halifax-Northampton ReStore or at their home’s build site.
The family also takes out a mortgage, just like any other homeowner. But because of the no-interest loan, the typical homeowner for Lander’s affiliate has a mortgage payment of about $500 a month, which includes insurance and taxes.
“We serve people who would not qualify for a mortgage on their own,” Lander said. “When people apply to us, they come and interview with the board. We do a home visit. Their homes are typically substandard rentals, and they need to move. Often they reek of mold and mildew. Habitat was formed to address that kind of problem. We are all God’s people.”
Mangum, a single mother of one son, is a teacher’s assistant in the Northampton County schools. She was approved for a Habitat home in 2012.
“I called a board member. We talked about my dream of becoming a homeowner, to turn the key to my own door.” Her son, Tyshon Boone, was in high school when she was approved for a Habitat home; today he is a freshman at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro.
She recalls delays with paperwork and permitting, and weather was a factor.
“But I can’t complain. I kept my frustrations to myself throughout the process,” she recalls. “I took it as it came. I took it on faith.”
“Patience is a virtue,” she said. And the 400 hours of “sweat equity” she and her son put into their new home “ were truly a great experience and a blessing.”
She readily admits that grasping that key after more than two years of working and waiting was overwhelming.
“I tried to hold it in but your emotions get the best of you. I went to the last Habitat house dedication and saw how appreciative they were. I was crying for them.”
Mangum got her wish to have her home built to give her a view across the cotton field near her home. It’s a rural landscape that reflects this community of about 1,200 in Northampton County, just west of I-95 and just below the Virginia line.
Tyshon will live with his mother when he’s not away at college studying construction management. Her mother and sisters also live in the area, so the home’s three bedrooms and two baths will come in handy for visits.
Lander speaks of the process with satisfaction. He retired to the area after a career in human resources with Westinghouse in Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
“We built a home on the lake, and my wife and I were involved,” he explained. “Then we decided to do stuff for other people, not just ourselves.”
Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina