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Season of Wishes: Habitat wants homes for the holidays

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Alcorn State University student Lashonda Thomas, right, watches Habitat for Humanity Natchez chapter secretary Duncan McFarlane as he nails in a brace board on the frame of a house being built Saturday morning on Martin Luther King Jr. Street. Thomas is one of three students from the Agribusiness and Economics Club who was helping.

NATCHEZ — Christmas will come a little late for the Watson family, approximately eight months late, but the family of six doesn’t mind. For them, it’s worth it.

Evelyn and Morris Watson and their four children, Brian, 7; Olivia, 4; Aubriana, 2 and Aubury, who was born Nov. 5, are waiting patiently for their new house.

“It’s a blessing,” Evelyn said. “We are so happy and glad we are able to get this.

“It is something we can say, ‘it’s ours, and it’s our home.’”

For the Watsons, the opportunity to move out of the two-bedroom trailer and into their own house is something for which they are grateful to Habitat for Humanity.

“We’ve never had a house before,” Evelyn said. “Our kids are very excited. They want to know where their rooms will be.”

For the past two decades, the Habitat for Humanity has built houses for families like Evelyn’s, and Habitat board member Duncan McFarlane said the Watson Habitat house would be the 17th in Natchez.

Being selected for a Habitat for Humanity house isn’t easy. McFarlane said families have to go through an application process and meet three requirements.

“We select families based on need, the ability to pay a mortgage, and they must be willing to work on the house themselves,” McFarlane said.

Adults in the family must work 250 hours each on the house, which McFarlane called “sweat equity.”

“We don’t give these homes away,” McFarlane said. “But the families don’t have to come up with a down payment or any other fees associated with buying house.

“We just ask they contribute a certain amount of time to the construction of the house, which isn’t easy, and it’s a big commitment.”

Evelyn said the couple doesn’t mind putting in the hours.

“We’ve learned a lot because of it,” Evelyn said. “My husband really enjoys working on the house.”

Houses cost approximately $50,000 to build, which McFarlane said is financed through the Habitat for Humanity at no interest for 25 years.

“The homeowners payment is roughly around $300 per month and that includes taxes and fire insurance,” McFarlane said.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday McFarlane said volunteers work to build the house from the ground up, all on a tight budget.

“Everyone here is a volunteer,” McFarlane said. “All the donations we get go to building supplies.”

With the rising prices on items like lumber and other building supplies, McFarlane said the cost of building houses goes up every year.

“We have to keep a close eye on our pocket book,” McFarlane said. “We don’t want the house payment to more than the family can afford.”

McFarlane said the money to build houses comes from grants and personal and corporate donations.

“The main things we need are money, volunteers, land and applicants,” McFarlane said.

McFarlane said donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 100, Natchez, MS 39120.

For more information on making a donation or volunteering, call 601-801-4956 or 601-445-8639.