Habitat for Humanity starts 20th home this month

pseligson@newsobserver.comOctober 7, 2013 

Habitat for Humanity of Johnston County will break ground this month on its 20th house, and volunteers hope to see the nonprofit grow even more.

Habitat is an international group that builds and repairs houses for the needy. The Johnston County chapter, founded in 1997, builds roughly one house a year, but its leaders hope to increase that number.

“Our goal is to start building two houses a year, and we need help from the community in two ways,” said Brenda Porter-Rockwell, public relations chairwoman. “We need their volunteer support, and we need their financial support.”

Kaye Hatch, board president, said Johnston County’s group is smaller than many others. It has three part-time employees and about 50 volunteers who work on the houses.

Hatch said she hopes to raise an additional $100,000 and increase the core volunteer base to about 30. “You won’t have that many on site, but that gives you a good base to pull from so that you’re not overburdening volunteers,” she said. “And we are definitely looking for volunteers on our board of directors. We need talented people to help us grow this organization and help the organization advance administratively.”

Hatch said reaching one home a year on a consistent basis was exciting. “It’s very nice that we are finally able to get things streamlined,” she said. “Been fortunate. It’s about our limit financially and resource-wise.”

Hatch said she would love to grow to two homes a year, doubling the number of families that Habitat helps. “Everything that we can do to impact their lives is just a blessing,” she said.

Each house costs about $60,000 to build, Porter-Rockwell said. People can donate directly on the group’s website, habitatjohnston.org, or buy items from its ReStore. Located in Rose Manor shopping center in Smithfield, the store sells donated materials such as doors, carpeting and appliances for 50 to 75 percent of their retail value.

Porter-Rockwell said the group builds most of its houses around Smithfield and Selma but hopes to expand to more parts of the county.

Habitat recently finished its 19th home, in Selma. The Beltran family received the keys at the end of August. Maria Rodriguez and Raul Beltran moved in with their children, Mia, 8, and Luis, 4, and the couple is expecting another child.

“I felt great,” Rodriguez said of moving in. “We were just happy that finally we’re going to have a house.”

Rodriguez said she and her husband applied to Habitat in 2009; they simply didn’t have enough money or credit to buy a home on their own. “We were just going place to place,” she said. “We didn’t have a stable place, especially for the kids.”

Under Habitat rules, the family had to put 300 hours into the building of their home home; friends and extended family could contribute to those hours. They also had to pay part of the closing costs, money they were able to save over time.

The family had some ups and downs on the road to owning a home. At one point, when the economy dropped, Habitat for Humanity had to put the house on hold. But now the family is locked in on a 20-year mortgage with no interest. Rodriguez said they pay $415 a month.

She said she feels great knowing that one day the home will be paid off and completely theirs. “I think every somebody’s dream is to have a house and to have a stable place,” Rodriguez said.

She said she used to worry when she lived in a place and knew it didn’t belong to her. “That worry just went away,” she said.

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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