Bless this home: Habitat hands over keys to new homeownerPublished 12:06am Monday, July 23, 2012
NATCHEZ — Martin Luther King Jr. Street got a little brighter Sunday afternoon as one of the street’s residents got her long-awaited piece of the American dream.
New homeowner Ericka Johnson stood inside her new house as her family, friends and Natchez-Adams County Habitat for Humanity board members, volunteers and fellow homeowners blessed the house for which Johnson has been waiting for quite some time.
“I’m overwhelmed, and I’m very happy,” she said. “I’ve wanted this for such a long time.”
Johnson has been watching her house take shape for the last eight months by her own hands and the hands of volunteers and Johnson’s friends and family.
“I’m so glad it’s over, and I finally have my home,” she said.
Johnson’s parents donated the lot on which her house was built, and she said her family put in 376 total sweat hours — 126 more than required by Habitat — to help build the house.
Johnson did not just receive a new home, she said she gained insight into what goes into building a house from the ground up.
“I learned so much,” she said. “I had never participated in building a house before so I learned a lot.”
Ward 2 Alderman Rickey Gray, who knows Johnson and in whose ward Johnson’s house sits, welcomed her as Ward 2’s newest homeowner Sunday.
“God is good, and he is good all the time, and I know he is going to bless your house,” Gray said.
Gray said Habitat has built approximately seven houses in Ward 2 and helped him significantly with the dilapidated housing issue in his ward.
“Without Habitat, I don’t know what I would do,” he said.
Andrew Calvit, president of the Natchez-Adams County Habitat for Humanity, said at the dedication ceremony that many people look at Habitat houses and say, “Look what Habitat has built.”
“I say, ‘Look what the community has built,’” he said. “It’s not just Habitat, it is the work of families and volunteers…we build houses, we build families and we build lives.”
The Rev. Birdon Mitchell of Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church prayed a blessing over Johnson’s house and asked everyone to remember who is really responsible for Johnson’s new home.
“The Lord has built this house,” he said. “The Lord has used the hands of Habitat. The Lord has no hand but our hand, and he has touched the hands of Habitat to build this house.”
Johnson said she will be moving into the house this week and plans to prepare a big dinner for her family once she is settled.
Johnson’s house is the 16th Habitat house in Natchez since the local Habitat’s inception in 1991 and was built by individual and student volunteers and volunteers from churches and civic organizations.
Habitat will start construction on another house on one of the two vacant lots the organization owns on Martin Luther King Jr. Street near the Smith Street intersection.
Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. House recipients are required to devote hours to construction.
Donations of money or construction materials and information on applications for a Habitat home or volunteer to work on the next house, can be made by contacting Habitat for Humanity at 601-445-8639, 601-807-4956 or P.O. Box 100, Natchez, MS, 39121.