Today is Aug. 1, when many house payments are due. But for the first time in years, Judy Mappa won’t be concerned with that.
While finally being able to settle up with the lending agency is something every homeowner looks forward to, that milestone was reached a little differently for the Mount Airy woman.
Hers is the second house to be paid for under the Greater Mount Airy Area Habitat for Humanity program.
Mappa and her husband Philip and their three children first moved into their home on Forrest Drive, in a neighborhood near Hampton Inn, in 1996.
And as about 30 Habitat for Humanity representatives, friends, family members and other well-wishers watched, Mappa and her children burned a replica of the note in the backyard to celebrate their mortgage milestone during a special program Tuesday night.
The only member of the family missing from that scene was Philip Mappa, who had died in December of cancer. And though he did not make it to the end of the journey that culminated with Tuesday’s occasion, his presence was still felt among those gathered.
“He’s up there jumping up and down and singing,” Judy Mappa speculated concerning her late husband’s reaction to the proceedings.
Getting their house paid for had been heavy on Philip’s mind during his illness and last days, recalled his widow, who clutched a small framed picture of him during Tuesday night’s program.
“That was one thing Philip was worried about,” she added. “It just makes me feel good knowing that it is paid for.”
Another person who participated in the program also believed the cancer victim was there in spirit.
“I know Philip is here with us — I can feel his presence,” said Commissioner Dean Brown, who represented the city government at Tuesday night’s program. Brown, who knew Mappa, said he was a good citizen who helped local youths in particular.
“Philip did so much with the community and the scouts,” Brown added of Mappa’s longtime association with Boy Scouts. Judy Mappa also is involved with Special Olympics, Relay for Life and Friends Feeding Friends. Philip Mappa further lent his talents to the local Habitat for Humanity organization.
In its earlier years, “Philip wired about every house,” recalled Ron Niland, a former Mount Airy city manager, who helped launch the Habitat program here. It now has served a total of 36 families, with other projects in the works.
“He did that free of charge,” Niland added of the numerous Habitat homes on which Mappa labored.
But it was his family’s pioneering role as a successful house recipient that took center stage Tuesday night.
“Judy, we really are happy for you,” Niland told her on behalf of those assembled.
Habitat Made Difference
The outlook was not so cheery for the family before it received the Habitat home, however.
The five members had to live in a small trailer, which was made even more difficult due to one of the children being disabled. And since as an electrician Philip Mappa worked for different companies rather than one in particular for a required three-year period, the family encountered trouble getting a conventional loan.
Habitat for Humanity came to the Mappas’ rescue under its program that provides deserving families with new houses at zero-percent interest. This is made possible through donated materials and volunteer labor, including “sweat equity” on the part of the families.
Yet at the end of the day, a payment still had to be made every month, which went back into a fund to build more houses. The Mappas’ note was retired earlier than scheduled, due to paying extra along the way, a Habitat representative pointed out Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Mappa children reached adulthood, with only son A.J., 21, still living in the house along with his mom.
Their home on Forrest Drive, and one next door, were the first built by the Greater Mount Airy Area Habitat for Humanity.
“We’re really, really excited about this,” local Habitat Executive Director Lynn Wilkes said during the celebration. “We’re just really, really blessed and excited.”
Wilkes also credited the role of a higher presence that she indicated was just as important as the nails, hammers and labor that made the structure a lasting part of the community.
“God is so faithful — when he starts something, he sees it to completion,” Wilkes said.
“And He has done that with the Mappa family.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.