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‘New life will start’: Salisbury mother receives Habitat home

By Shavonne Walker

Tywanda Heilig has found the bright spot of homeownership amid a hard couple of weeks following the death of her mother.

On Saturday, her family, friends and supporters gathered at her new Habitat for Humanity-built home on Union Heights Boulevard, the first of nine that will be built in the area. The mom of two was surrounded by her children — daughter Allahna, 8, and son Elijah, 6.

“It’s been a journey,” Heilig said as tears ran down her cheeks. “I needed Habitat at this particular moment.”

She noted that it will be an opportunity for her children to have their own rooms and a yard to play in.

“This is where my new life will start. This is where I can tell my kids to ‘go to your room,'” Heilig said, laughing.

In a soft, quiet voice, Allahna thanked everyone gathered for their role in helping to build her family’s home, saying she was glad to have the house and for her family to have a space to play.

The process began in March, with Heilig volunteering 100 hours on someone else’s home followed by 300 “sweat equity” hours on her own home. Her friends, family, neighbors and other volunteers began working on the house, too, and the process wrapped up quickly. She also volunteered on seven other homes. And her mother was also the recipient of a Habitat-built home.

Heilig said it’s the first time her children ever had a yard and, in fact, the children scooped up dirt when they first got onto the Union Heights Boulevard property.

“The freedom is what’s most exciting. It means a lot to me,” Heilig said.

Also in attendance was the family of Don Rink, a longtime Habitat volunteer, who died in November. Heilig’s home was dedicated in memory of Rink, who left a portion of funding in his will to the organization. It’s believed that Rink volunteered to help build a third of the houses in Rowan County, said Jane Hartness, Habitat’s volunteer coordinator and family intake specialist.

His family said he loved the organization and, even before volunteering in Rowan County, that he volunteered in Huntersville and Florida.

“He was a simple man. He loved a few things — God, his wife, his family, Habitat for Humanity and his tomatoes,” said Rink’s son, David.

“I can’t describe how good it feels,” said Don’s wife, Sue.

She said seeing the Heilig family, supporters and volunteers was an expression of why her husband volunteered endlessly with the organization.

“This brings it home to me. I know why he did it,” Sue said.

Heilig said she especially wanted to thank her friends, the volunteers, and her entire family who’ve supported her throughout the process.

Mark Park, a longtime volunteer, was someone who also instrumental in helping to build. Park said he looks forward to Saturdays — when he gets to do what he loves.

“I truly get more out of it than I give,” Park said.

Construction supervisor Dave Rowh has known the Heilig family for years, helped build their mother’s home and her sister’s as well. Rowh said he remembers building on those projects alongside Tywanda, never knowing that years later he’d help her build her own home.

Rowh said he was grateful to be able to work with so many people including Don Rink.

Rowh said he thinks Don would be happy about how Heilig’s home turned out. He died before being able to see the project begin.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.



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