Habitat volunteers at Thursday’s Fundraising Banquet strongly emphasized the foundation of the ministry is less about the quantity of homes built and more about building hope for families. Broadcast journalist Cameron Kent of WXII 12 was the featured speaker for the event at Cross Creek.
“It is so good to be in Mount Airy without a foot of snow on the ground,” said Kent. “I don’t stand in front of this great group of people as a paragon of volunteerism. I didn’t find happiness until I started volunteering. It has changed my life. What an honor it is to see people grasp the dream of home ownership.”
Kent listed what he considered the top excuses for not becoming a volunteer and told participants they would reach a time in their life when people would not ask them “what do you do” but “what have you done” and said personal legacy can be a powerful motivator to volunteer. He said excuses come easier than answering a call to help.
He told those who felt they had nothing to offer — simply cleaning out their closet and driving the contents to a Goodwill Store would make a difference. He quoted from Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”
Kent said he remembered seeing a 5-year-old hugging a kitchen table at the first house dedication he attended after becoming a Habitat volunteer. He told the group the child’s mother explained they never had a kitchen table before.
“There are so many ways you can help Habitat,” Kent said. “What it really requires is passion. You have to care about something. Ask yourself how you are going to spend time while you are on the interstate of life, sometimes stopping briefly to give someone hope. If you have to be tight-fisted about something, be tight-fisted around a hammer for Habitat for Humanity.”
Homeowner Gretta Brown gave a testimonial on what Habitat had meant for her and her three children. Brown said she was a single mother dealing with bankruptcy shortly before entering the program. Her home in Dobson was the 35th one built by the group.
“I never thought my dream of owning a home would come true,” said Brown. “All I wanted was for my kids to grow up in the same house, like I did. I didn’t want to move them around.” She told the group she learned of Habitat through a friend’s Facebook page and how losing her job shortly before being accepted into the program spelled the end of her dream.
Brown said the board told her they would work with her and she reached her goal of being in the home by Christmas. She said she owed a lot to her mother who helped keep her children so she could work on her home and the home of another family in the program.
“The first night we slept on an air mattress in our bedroom and I told them we’d have slept there under just a blanket (because we were so excited),” Brown said. “We finally had a place to call home. My children have friends and a yard to play in.”
Habitat Executive Director Neil Cothren opened the banquet by welcoming the participants and recognizing staff and the group’s board of directors.
“All we do doesn’t happen without people dedicated to a purpose,” said Cothren. “There is no way Habitat would be so successful without its staff and your support. The purpose has to be bigger than yourself. That goes hand in hand with why we are here tonight. It doesn’t happen without all the groups I’ve mentioned. We are here to help people we have yet to meet.”
He praised event sponsors for making the banquet possible. The goal of the event is to raise $20,000.
Board of Directors Chairman Jennifer Key reminded participants Habitat families are receiving “a hand up and not a hand out.” She said Habitat provides homes at zero percent interest through 25- to 30-year loans with monthly payments ranging between $425 and $500 for families who also contribute a minimum of 250 “Sweat equity” hours helping build others homes and their own.
She said the local affiliate has served Surry County since 1993 and has placed 43 families in safe, decent, affordable home over the past 20 years.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on Twitter @MtAiryNewsDave