Olivia Shaffer has always dreamed of owning her own home. Soon, her dreams will be a reality.
Later this year, the Elizabethton resident and her 8-year-old daughter, Makinnzie, will move into a home in the Southside community that is being refurbished by dozens of Carter County Habitat for Humanity volunteers. Among those volunteers last Saturday were a group of Elizabethton Rotary Club members, who worked on the house as a part of a community service project marking the centennial celebration of Rotary District 7570.
Lanelle Crockett, local Holston Habitat for Humanity coordinator, said, “While Rotary is an international organization, members of the Elizabethton club felt that Rotary and Habitat share many of the same values, and volunteering to work on the house was a good way to mark their 100th anniversary.”
The Rotary volunteers helped with painting the interior of the house, cut and installed siding on the exterior of the home and did some sweeping and cleaning up around the grounds.
Since early August, several volunteers have worked on Shaffer’s new home, priming and painting the walls she’ll soon use to hang family photos and artwork.
Many of the volunteers such as Crockett and Don Swanner, site supervisor for the Elizabethton house, are long-time volunteers with Habitat for Humanity.
“Enabling a family to achieve home ownership is a life changing event with long lasting implications,” Crockett said.
The house, which was built in 2005 by Holston Habitat for Humanity, previously belonged to another Elizabethton Habitat family. “We hope to have it ready for a move-in date for late October, but this will depend to a great extent on the number of volunteers who show up to work between now and then,” said Crockett.
“There is still a lot of work to be done — walls to repair and paint, lots of detail work. We need both skilled and non-skilled workers. All they have to do is show up and someone will show them or teach them what they need to know,” she stressed, adding that much of the work is being done on Saturdays. Crockett said a Holston Habitat building inspector will be present to provide needed guidance to volunteers.
The three-bedroom, one-bath house which the Shaffers will occupy is located on Hartselle Drive. The Shaffers will join 12 other families who are Habitat for Humanity homeowners in Elizabethton.
Habitat for Humanity’s success is based on the belief that everyone, everywhere deserves a simple, decent place to live. Locally, people from all walks of life have come together to build the Elizabethton Habitat for Humanity houses. “We have had college students, professional people, church lay members, retirees, clubs and some women to help with these houses,” Crockett said.
Why does Crockett do it?
“Being part of Habitat is about more than building houses,” she shared. “It’s about reaching out to our neighbors in need and helping them build not just a house, but their dreams for a brighter future.”
Crockett said there are several ways that Habitat ensures that each house built is a hand-up, not a handout, and that the new homeowners get the most out of their partnership. “First, once a Habitat partner family is selected, we help prepare them for home ownership through a series of comprehensive, interactive workshops where they learn about basic home maintenance and repair, how to manage their finances, and how to protect their new home,” she explained.
At the same time, members of the partner family began to work in the Habitat office and on the construction sites of other partner families to earn the “sweat equity” hours required by the program. Each homeowner family invests 500 hours of volunteer labor in the building of their home and in other Habitat projects.
Finally, Habitat partner families become homeowners; they purchase their homes. Habitat builds these homes at no profit, financing them with zero-interest mortgages. As families pay off their mortgages, the money is recycled to build more homes.
“Our homeowners become those who now give the hand-up to the next family,” Crockett shared.
Not to mention that these new homeowners are now property taxpayers, too.
“They make a tangible difference in our community,” Crockett said.
As for Olivia Shaffer, she’s excited to be so close to moving into her new home. She said she enjoys giving back to the organization that is giving her so much.
“We’re helping not only ourselves, but others,” she said.