They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same might be said for the building of Habitat for Humanity homes — judging by an event Saturday afternoon in Mount Airy.
Dedication ceremonies for newly constructed Habitat houses typically include the same attendees. There are the happy families getting the new residences, staff members and volunteers of the organization involved with the construction, local elected officials, members of the ministry, friends, relatives and other well-wishers there to celebrate the families’ new start.
For the record, the latest recipients of energy-efficient houses are Aaron and Nickie Hackler and their three sons, and Juan Carlos and Emile Pagan.
Yet Saturday’s program for the two newest homes built through the Greater Mount Airy Area Habitat for Humanity — which sit side-by-side at 977 and 983 Newsome St. — included a recently added dimension. It is an involvement by Surry County Schools, students of which helped with the project.
Through a construction management program offered by Surry Community College, students of the college and North Surry, East Surry and Surry Central high schools do initial work on houses behind North Surry which later are moved to the permanent sites.
As of Saturday, students have helped with three houses for the local Habitat for Humanity, which has now built 45 homes around the county since being launched in 1993.
“Surry County Schools are really blessed to be a part of this project,” Dr. Travis Reeves, the system’s superintendent, said at Saturday’s gathering. Not only does that involvement aid deserving families, students are learning skills they can apply to the Real World.
It helps the schools combine “relevance with education,” Reeves added of the construction program.
“Education is not just K-12, it’s K-life.”
The superintendent said local educators are excited about the direction the local Habitat for Humanity group is taking by including students. “We look forward to building more houses.”
Reeves also addressed the Hacklers and Pagans. “You’re living the dream,” he told them. “That’s what it’s all about.”
It was noticeably difficult for the house recipients to contain their excitement Saturday during emotional remarks before the assembled crowd as they received the keys to their new homes, on which work began in late April.
Nickie Hackler recalled when she first laid eyes on the frame for her family’s house at North Surry High. “Just like that night, I’m speechless,” she said Saturday.
However, the house recipient was able to say that the final stages awaiting the end of the project were the longest four weeks of her life, but “one week from now we’re going to be living in it.”
That enthusiasm was echoed by Emile Pagan.
“This is the moment we’ve been waiting for,” she said. “God has definitely truly blessed us.”
Pagan added that she and her husband, who have been married three years, do not have children yet. “But we now have a home that we will bring our babies to,” she said.
Beneficiaries of the Habitat for Humanity program don’t receive the houses for free, but mortgages at zero-percent interest. Each applicant also must perform a minimum of 200 “sweat-equity” hours, either for their own houses or others under construction.
The volunteer labor and donated materials which aid the Habitat program also help keep the prices lower than would be possible otherwise. N.A. Barnes the chairman of the organization’s local board of directors, expressed thanks Saturday to about 40 local businesses that are building partners for Habitat for Humanity.
Steve Yokeley, a member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners and the city’s mayor pro tem, offered remarks at the program in which he praised the work of the local Habitat for Humanity organization in building 45 houses to date.
“That is a tremendous accomplishment,” Yokeley said of a program that has served more than 79 adults and 128 children since it began.
He further congratulated the Pagans and Hacklers on behalf of city officials. “We’re very thrilled and excited for you.”
The recipients who’ll be moving in to the houses on Newsome Street received a number of gifts to aid that transition, before tours began of the homes — but not until one other speaker gave credit to another entity.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders’ labor is in vain,” said Elias Fernandez, a pastor from the Church of God in Dobson, quoting a Bible passage from the Book of Psalms.
“In the end, God blesses us for the work we do,” Fernandez added.
“Sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s all worth the work.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.