When most homeowners purchase a house they quickly begin the process of
changing it to create a place they will call home. Sometimes it's as
simple as adding curtains or painting walls, other times it can entail a
major renovation where walls are moved and the entire structure is
remodeled. No matter what the modifications, the owners are the ones
changing the house to suit their needs. So what happens when it's the
"house" that changes the life of the family who will live there?
Patuxent Habitat for Humanity has been answering that question in
Southern Maryland for several years. As a non-profit organization
dedicated to providing affordable housing to those who might otherwise
never know the joys of homeownership, they have seen families empowered
and transformed by something that many of us take for granted.
In 2003, Patuxent Habitat was established to serve St. Mary's and
Calvert counties. Charles County continues its own affiliate called
Habitat for Humanity in Southern Maryland.
Patuxent Habitat has averaged two houses per year for the last three
years. No small feat considering the exhaustive process and massive
volunteer effort required to create a Habitat home.
One partner family who knows the process well are the Reeds of Calvert
County. Mom Jerri and sons Wesley, 12, and Jason, 7, are the latest
family to partner with Patuxent Habitat and to become homeowners.
Jack Marrkand, director of Patuxent Habitat, said people often think
Habitat "gives away" homes. However, several review committees evaluate
applicants regarding degree of need, ability to repay the loan, and
willingness to put in the required "sweat equity." Partner families also
undergo an extensive interview process, are assigned mentors, and must
take budgeting classes. These criteria, combined with land donations,
building material donations, and volunteer hours, all add to the time it
takes to complete a home.
The Reed family was part of an "Apostles' Build." Nancy Favor, a
Patuxent Habitat board member, coordinated 12 local churches to sponsor
the Reed project. Working full time and dedicating weekends to building
her new home is no easy task for Jerri; not just because she is a single
mother of two boys, but also because of her youngest son's special
Seven-year-old Jason has spina bifida, a serious birth defect that poses
special challenges. He is unable to walk, so Jerri had to carry him up
and down the stairs of her parent's basement where she was living before
her home was completed this November.
Their new three-bedroom home is on one level with an unfinished basement
and is completely handicap accessible. Even with all of their personal
hardships, it is clear this family cherishes all they have.
"Words can't even describe what it means," Jerri said, "I would never
have owned my own home if it wasn't for Habitat."
That feeling of accomplishment and emotion spills over onto everyone
involved in Habitat. The first Saturday of the Apostles' Build, 71
volunteers showed up to help. And, volunteers need no special skills.
June Cornillaud, program/business manager for Patuxent Habitat, has been
a Habitat International volunteer many years. She has seen the time and
commitment required to complete projects and also the rewards gained by
"Former partner families come and help with other projects," said
Cornillaud, as a way of showing how much their own Habitat homes have
changed their lives.
If home is where the heart is, then Habitat for Humanity and its many
sponsors and volunteers are the lifeblood keeping it alive and well.
To help, call 1-877-37-Build,
www.patuxenthabitat.org; or, Habitat for Humanity in Southern
Maryland, 301-645-4531, www.habitat.org.