By COLBY DENTON
Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland broke ground Friday on three of the four homes it’s building this year in the Victory Grove subdivision. The fourth will be in its South Gate Hills subdivision.
Despite the rain, a large crowd turned out to support the organization and the families it is serving.
Easy Auto, the title sponsor for the Habitat Women Build home, came to the build site early Friday morning and worked for several hours on the home before the wet weather returned. The home will go to future homeowner Erica Nelson and her two daughters.
“Our Women Build home is where we get over 200 women, who’ve brought teams of 10 women each and who raise $500 per team, so our Women Build teams collectively raise $20,000,” Habitat Executive Director Tammy Johnson said.
Once these homes are built, Habitat of Cleveland will have effectively completed 136 homes for residents.
Easy Auto President Ben Chandler and several members of his team had been working on the Women Build home earlier in the morning. He said the team has a future work date established to return to the build and continue working for a full day.
“Women and children are affected most by poor living conditions, so this build was very easy to get behind,” Chandler said. “Everyone in our organization, from our founder Bob Card to our CEO Robbie Card, truly believes in giving back to the community. There’s nothing better than reinvesting our resources right here in Cleveland.”
The Legacy Build home is sponsored by the George R. Johnson Family Foundation, and is going to future homeowner Dale Ware.
Tammy Johnson expressed pride in Ware, who has already started completing her "sweat equity" hours, participating in home ownership classes and volunteering in the Habitat office.
The other two families include the Leaders Build home for Victor Headrick and his son, and the Heroes Build home for Brenda Walker.
The foundations on the homes are already completed, and framing has just started. Weather permitting, the time frame for completion averages around 12 weeks. This is accomplished by teams of subcontractors working on Mondays and Wednesdays, core volunteers working on Tuesdays and Thursdays and outside groups working on Fridays and Saturdays. Depending upon what the weather does, the teams can speed up or slow down the construction to remain on schedule.
“We have a lot of sponsors who have volunteer build days. They coordinate 10 people for each group, so we try to stay on schedule as best we can unless it’s a total rainout,” Johnson said.
Habitat has five different communities in Cleveland. These include Fitzgerald Village, Sain Village, Century Village, Victory Cove and South Gate Hills.
Johnson said many residents are unaware of just how many communities Habitat’s built, with the reason being that placing a Habitat family by themselves in a struggling community almost inevitably drags the family down with the negative environment. The opposite can be said for an exclusively Habitat community, where “positive peer pressure” acts as a good influence and lifts them up.
One home is called the Leaders Build home because it's built by numerous community leaders who’ve each donated $1,000 to Habitat and who will help build the home for two half-days. Some particular Cleveland celebrities include Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, Lee University President Dr. Paul Conn, state Sen. Mike Bell, Peak Performance’s Denise Rice, the first woman leader; and several others. Johnson emphasized there are still slots available for workers on the Leaders Build team for anyone interested in joining.
During the groundbreaking, Johnson said, “Although it’s gloomy and rainy, we are filled with excitement as we welcome our four future homebuyers to the Habitat family.”
Erica Nelson, one of the future homeowners, expressed her sheer gratitude to Habitat and its volunteers for everything they’ve done for her and her family.
“I’d first like to thank the almighty God, the man who made this all possible, and to all of these wonderful, thoughtful people who stood by Him, including Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland,” Nelson said, amid tears.
She continued, “To the four families here, I say to you, ‘We have finally made it to this day,’ but when we all started we had our doubts. Our advocates told us that this may seem like a rocky road ahead. I’m sure many of us thought, ‘Will we ever get past this rocky road?’ But we all heard that little whisper in our ear that said ‘I will give each and every one of you strength and peace.’ So our four families would like to say that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and thank you all for your support.”
The Habitat team then posed with their shovels to symbolically break ground on the all-new homes for 2019, surrounded by smiling and grateful faces, despite the cold rain.
To support Habitat, Johnson encourages everyone interested to check out their website, learn about the Habitat families, consider sponsoring one and look into the variety of volunteer opportunities the organization offers.
Past and future Habitat families’ biographies can be found on Habitat’s website, www.habitatofcleveland.org.
For more information, Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland can be reached at 423-473-4610. It is located at 300 Grove Ave.