For this Natchez family, opening ceremony for their Habitat house causes tears of joy

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2005

Facing a room that overflowed with supporters Sunday, Carmen Holloway’s eyes overflowed with happy tears.

When she could speak, she recalled the words she had been saying, both aloud and to herself, since she woke up that morning &045; &uot;thank you, Lord.&uot;

The reason? She and her children, Asia and Kevin, were standing in the kitchen of their new Habitat for Humanity house.

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Just a few minutes before, Holloway signed the deed and mortgage papers with Habitat board member and attorney Danny O’Beirne standing by, a proud smile on his face. Just a few minutes more, and she would receive the keys to her new home from Habitat volunteer Carl Timmons.

Habitat, a national nonprofit, uses volunteer help to build houses for those who have good credit and meet other criteria but can’t afford a steep down payment. Habitat holds zero-interest mortgages on the homes.

Holloway’s house, located on Smith Street in Natchez, is the eighth the Natchez chapter has built since its inception in 1991. In fact, several other Habitat homeowners were present at Sunday afternoon’s opening ceremony for that house.

Holloway is proud to be the latest &045; but she reserved much of her remarks Sunday to thank those volunteers that put more than 325 workdays into her home’s construction. &uot;I just thank everyone for what you’ve given to my family,&uot; she said.

It’s been rewarding but, at times, also memorable, chapter Construction Manager Buddy Rayne said with a laugh. Several students from Quincy University in Illinois spent Spring Break volunteering at the site.

And longtime, local Habitat diehards were also at the site each week &045; in one case, putting a roof on the house in 20-degree weather.

But Habitat houses aren’t handouts. Once they’re approved for the house, adults living there must put in 250 hours of work building their house.

Holloway, who plans to move in Friday, put in 175 hours but will make up the rest working on Habitat’s next home.

That house will be built next to the current one, with construction starting in the next several months. In recent years, six other contiguous lots on Smith Street have been donated for Habitat’s use.

&uot;We wanted to build a lot of houses in one area,&uot; said Andrew Calvit, president of the local Habitat chapter. &uot;So we exercised faith and prayer and the Lord gave us this property.&uot;

&uot;That should keep us busy for six more years,&uot; Habitat Treasurer Duncan McFarlane said.

And when she sees those homes take shape, Holloway will see their construction in a different light.

&uot;When they poured the foundation, I said ‘Lord, that’s just a slab,’&uot; she said. &uot;A couple of months later, and I said ‘Lord, that’s a house.’ But a couple of days ago I came by again. And I said ‘Lord Š that’s my home.’&uot;