Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Habitat for Humanity volunteers Glenn Smith, from left, Luther Cain and Philip Rachal align a floor joist in the Habitat house for Rachal and his family Saturday morning. Construction on the home started six weeks ago and is expected to be completed in May or June.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Habitat for Humanity volunteers Glenn Smith, from left, Luther Cain and Philip Rachal align a floor joist in the Habitat house for Rachal and his family Saturday morning. Construction on the home started six weeks ago and is expected to be completed in May or June.

Season of Wishes: Habitat for Humanity building dreams for local families

Published 12:10am Monday, December 2, 2013

NATCHEZ — The work site on Martin Luther King Jr. Street might not look like much right now — it’s a lot of mud, some piers and the start of a residential foundation — but to Philip and Jordan Rachal, it looks like home.

The Rachals — along with their children Christopher, 6; Naomi, 4; Phil, 3 and Victor, 4 months — will be the recipients of the 18th Habitat for Humanity house in Natchez.

Philip is a driver for Stokes Distributing, and Jordan works the front desk at Natchez Manor, but in the four years they’ve been married they haven’t been able to nail down a place they can call their own.

That’s about to change, literally.

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Habitat for Humanity volunteers Joseph Rachal, from left, Philip Rachal, Duncan McFarlane and Luther Cain align a floor joist in the Habitat house for Philip and Jordan Rachal Saturday morning. Construction on the home started six weeks ago and is expected to be completed in May or June.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Habitat for Humanity volunteers Joseph Rachal, from left, Philip Rachal, Duncan McFarlane and Luther Cain align a floor joist in the Habitat house for Philip and Jordan Rachal Saturday morning. Construction on the home started six weeks ago and is expected to be completed in May or June.

Though Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit that uses volunteer labor to build affordable housing for low-income families, one of the requirements is that each eligible adult in the family must put in 250 hours of work at the construction site, known in Habitat circles as “sweat equity.”

But that’s OK with Jordan.

“It has been great to do the work, to build it ourselves, because when you do that, it feels like yours,” she said.

“That’s good, because our kids need a place that is stable, that they can feel like is their own.”

Habitat for Humanity’s Nathchez volunteer coordinator Duncan McFarlane said the recipient families are selected through an application process, and the construction is tailored to each family.

“At the end of the construction period, we sell them the house for our exact building cost, and then we finance the mortgage for them at 0 interest for 25 years with no closing costs,” McFarlane said. “That keeps the payments below about $300 a month.”

“The whole secret to the thing is the 0-percent interest rate, because that cuts those payments about in half. Most all of our current home owners came out of rental houses where they were paying probably $300 a month for a substandard rental house, so for that same price we can move them into a brand new house that is theirs.”

Locally, Habitat for Humanity has only one employee, a construction foreman.

“We rely on volunteer labor,” McFarlane said. “The more groups that come out to help us, the faster the house is built. We work three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, all in the mornings from 8 to 12.”

And while construction experience can be helpful, it is by no means required, and Habitat will supply any needed tools, Natchez Habitat for Humanity President Andrew Calvit said.

“We might use carpentry terms out here, but we always make sure people know what we’re doing,” he said.

To continue its work, Habitat for Humanity needs volunteers and donations. The group has lost several of its grants this year, and McFarlane said every donation will count.

Donations can be mailed to PO Box 100, Natchez MS, 39121.

Volunteers can reach McFarlane at 601-807-4956.