A group of people putting shovels into the earth Saturday afternoon in Mount Airy produced more sounds than just scoops of soil and grass being disturbed — the beginning of two families’ dreams also was audible.
“This is a wonderful occasion as we break ground on House Number 51 and House Number 52,” said Sandra Richards, who chairs the board of directors of the Greater Mount Airy Area Habitat for Humanity.
Richards was listing the number of home-construction projects that have been undertaken by the local affiliate of the Habitat for Humanity organization since it was founded in 1993.
The lots for the two houses that ground was broken for Saturday are located beside each other at 487 Creed St. and 434 Worth St.
“Right now, it doesn’t look like much — it’s just fields and grass,” Kevin Minnix, another Habitat for Humanity board member, told about 30 people gathered for Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony, who included relatives of those who’ll occupy the homes and others.
After site-preparation work scheduled to commence on Monday, the houses will slowly take shape on the properties with the help of a small army of volunteers and community donations. The hope is that the homes can be occupied by Christmas.
Melissa Fields and her three children — Alonzo, 9, Ta’nautica, 14, and Ta’naze, 13 — will live in the house on Creed Street, while the one on Worth Street will be home to Beth Johnson and her sons, Brice, 10, and Bentley, 6 months.
The two families were approved for the organization’s home-ownership program.
Richards, the local Habitat board leader, was quick to point out Saturday that this does not involve a handout.
“We do not give away free houses,” she said. The goal is to aid deserving families that might not otherwise have the opportunity for home ownership through conventional means.
Those tapped as recipients pay mortgages over a 30-year loan term with zero-percent interest at a sales price of fair market value, reflecting a Habitat goal of providing decent, affordable housing to a population in need.
Those involved are required to attend home-buyer educational workshops to understand the rights and responsibilities of ownership and to complete the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course. They also must volunteer at least 250 hours with Habitat for Humanity, including at least 50 hours working on the construction sites of their own homes as part of a “sweat equity” requirement.
The mortgage payments go back into the program to help build more houses. Later this year, three Habitat house projects will be launched in Dobson.
“We give people an opportunity to build homes and futures for themselves,” Richards explained. “The outcomes can be long-lasting and life-changing.”
The mothers of both families said Saturday they were grateful for the opportunity.
“This is truly a blessing,” Melissa Fields said. “By having trust, faith and belief in God, all things are possible.”
Beth Johnson offered similar comments about being tapped for a Habitat house.
“It is a dream come true,” she said.
“I’ve waited for this for years and this just means the world to us,” Johnson added. “I couldn’t be happier — I can’t wait to start building.”
“Every day, right here in Surry County, more and more families find themselves in a struggle to keep a decent roof over their heads,” Richards said during the ceremony. She cited “punishing cycles of unpredictable rent increases, overcrowded conditions or lack of access to land and affordable financing.”
Myra Combs, local Habitat for Humanity director, said Saturday’s event is the culmination of much preparation, paperwork and time to finally reach the point where ground can be broken for construction to begin.
“This is the moment that starts to make it seem real,” Combs said. “This is a huge milestone.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.