Habitat for Humanity celebrates 100th house built in Rowan
SALISBURY — Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity of Rowan County gathered Saturday to celebrate two milestones.
Some stood on the boards that will be part of the living room of the Boler family’s new home on Oakwood Avenue.
Others gathered in the dirt and sand that will one day be the front lawn.
The Bolers’ home will be more than just four bedrooms and two baths, and more than just a home for a family that needs one.
It’s also the 100th house built by Habitat for Humanity of Rowan County.
Since the local Habitat for Humanity was officially formed on July 2, 1990, the agency has worked with hundreds of volunteers, churches and community groups to fulfill its mission, Executive Director Coleman Emerson said.
“And that is, to help eliminate poverty housing, to help those who have a housing need who are unable to qualify for a bank loan.”
Emerson said his agency built seven new homes for qualifying families last year, and hopes to see eight more homes built in 2013.
“In addition to that, we have volunteers at our ReStore and at our fundraising events,” he said.
In all, Emerson said, Habitat for Humanity reaches hundreds of people every year in Rowan County through volunteer efforts and construction of homes.
As he handed a gold-painted shovel to Ann Boler for the ceremonial groundbreaking, Emerson said Habitat for Humanity’s success here is “testimony that the people of Rowan County love one another, in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Although Habitat for Humanity is a non-denominational, ecumenical outreach, Emerson said, the Boler family’s groundbreaking ceremony was a time of thanksgiving.
And there’s another similarity between the first Habitat house in Rowan and the 100th: Both are projects led by members of Salisbury’s First Baptist Church.
It was at First Baptist, in 1986, that a representative from Habitat International first spoke to a group of Salisbury residents, according to the agency’s website — a gathering that sparked interest in forming a local Habitat affiliate.
Today, Emerson said, Habitat of Rowan is “a strong affiliate.”
“There are some larger ones in the big cities, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, but we are very strong and well thought-of,” Emerson said.
Standing up with volunteers during the groundbreaking, Habitat of Rowan President Pete Teague said some of those present were involved with homes built in the early 1990s.
Now in his 13th year as president, Teague described the organization’s transition from all volunteers to having a professional staff, and a wider reach in the county.
“Over time, with more organization, reaching out to more people and more churches, it just grew,” Teague said.
He attributes the success of Habitat in Rowan County to the faith and the interest of the community in accomplishing their mission.
Up on the foundation of the house itself, Ann Boler reached into a bucket of nails and grabbed a handful.
She, along with friends and family members, were there Saturday to invest some of the hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” required of those who take part in the Habitat for Humanity program.
“I’m happy, excited, honored that Habitat would help me be able to provide a home for me and my kids,” Boler said.
A month ago, she said, she had no idea that this day would come.
“(Habitat) is giving families the help they need. I mean, in this economy, they’re helping you provide for your family,” Boler said.
Teague said his agency is careful, and prayerful selection of families for the program was another reason for its success.
In general, families must be able to demonstrate a need for housing, and have an income that would allow them to repay the interest-free loan provided by the agency, according to the agency’s website.
They must also be willing to be active partners in the home-building process — 100 hours per family member.
Teague said his agency wants to prepare people to succeed.
He was also one of several volunteers who talked of Habitat’s role in volunteerism — providing an outlet for those who want to be active in the community.
He pointed to the home site, where some 35 volunteers were hammering away at the framework for the new walls.
“This is the part where you can really get involved,” Teague said.
“The best thing is you’re out here with a bunch of people, and with the family,” Teague continued. “It builds community that way.”
Jane Hartness, the agency’s volunteer coordinator, said she’s seen as many as 194 volunteers involved on one home-building project.
She, too, said the agency helps bring people together.
“Some people say, ‘Oh, I’ve never picked up a hammer, I don’t know what to do,’ ” Hartness said. “They show them. And so many people come back just beaming.”
The number of volunteers from churches and community groups who take part is “an indication of the sense of community that we can proudly say is here Salisbury and Rowan County,” Hartness said.
Still a need
Despite the improving housing market and a larger number of rental properties, Emerson said, “We are about homeownership, not about renting.”
“Our mission is to build single family new houses for people who have a housing need,” Emerson said.
Beyond that, he said, there’s a positive impact on the local economy from Habitat for Humanity’s housing projects.
“Every penny contributed in Rowan County, we attempt to spend within the county,” Emerson said.
“We’re still buying building materials, we’re still hiring the licensed trades, the plumbers, the electricians,” he said. “We have a positive effect in the community.”
David Rowh, Habitat of Rowan’s construction supervisor, started working with the group on what he thought would be a short-term commitment.
“I came to work for Habitat for 10 months,” Rowh said.
That was 13 years ago.
“I got hooked on Habitat,” Rowh said during a short break from helping prepare the walls of the home to be raised.
“I’ve had the pleasure of seeing people who were children when we built their families’ homes, who’ve gone off to college and are coming back to volunteer,” Rowh said.
And Rowh also pointed to the 30-plus volunteers on site, a group that included local church members, neighbors from nearby homes, youth volunteers and seasoned volunteers.
“It’s amazing when you stop to think about it,” Rowh said.
And it isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Even as they prepared to raise the walls at Habitat of Rowan’s 100th house, the foundation bricks for house number 101 are already laid next door, waiting for volunteers to arrive not long from now.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.