11th Habitat home ‘a blessing’ to family of 5
by Emily McLain
SYLACAUGA — They moved into their new house just two weeks ago, and already Valerie Paris and her four children feel right at home.

“It’s wonderful,” Paris said of their four bedroom, two bathroom house. “It’s a blessing from God.”

Located at 312 W. Coosa St., theirs is the 11th Habitat for Humanity home completed by the Sylacauga area affiliate. The house, with hardwood floors, ceramic tile, a spacious front porch and other details, took about six months to construct with the help of 80 volunteers who were guided by crew leaders Keith Pitman, Wayne Taylor and Fred Kornegay.

“I will tell you, we were hesitant to try to build again after our experience on the last two houses with no volunteers and struggling to get enough money,” Habitat President Celeste Landers said. “The donations had dropped off. But we decided as a board that we are a Christian ministry, and if we felt like God wanted us to do this, we should step out on faith.

“So that’s what we did, and we had more volunteers on this house than we have ever had before. It gives me chill bumps when I think about it.”

The previous two houses were built with an average of 15 volunteers, and only five regular volunteers on site for the five-day workweeks, she said. “The last couple houses, we didn’t know if we would ever finish, and then we stepped out on faith, and we had 80 volunteers. We had lots of help from Coosa Valley Medical Center, Carpenters for Christ, men from Coosa County and Talladega, and the city was awesome, too.”

The latest project is “one of the nicer houses we’ve done,” Landers said, thanks to the donation of time, money and materials from various churches and groups that made the roughly $50,000 project possible.

“This house came in a little higher than our previous homes, which were in the mid-$40,000 range, because new city building codes required us to get different windows, more insulation and things like that,” she said. “But I just think what it would have cost if we hadn’t had as many volunteers as we did.”

Paris was chosen from Habitat’s applicant pool based on her current need and that of her children — Tainiya Garrett, 17, Demysha Rowell, 13, Zaria Rowell, 11, and Iyanna Paris, 6. The family previously lived in an apartment in what Landers described as an unsafe neighborhood, making safety a priority on this build. Other aspects extensively examined before a homeowner is chosen include home conditions, overcrowding, and whether the family can afford to buy a house.

Before starting a new residence, Habitat collects enough donations to fund it, and then sells the home, tailored to the needs of the selected family, to the homeowner. The owner pays Habitat in monthly, interest-free payments for a 20-year period. Payments include costs for the home, home insurance, property taxes and other taxes, a termite bond and also a small amount of money to fund the next Habitat home. In addition, the new owner must help to build the next house.

“A lot of people think we give houses away, but we do not,” Landers said. “Like I always say, we are giving a hand up, not a hand out. And to see a family get back on their feet — there’s nothing like it.”

Paris, who is employed at Coosa Valley Medical Center, said she was hesitant to apply for Habitat out of the fear of being denied, but she now realizes it was meant to happen all along.

“Before I applied, my pastor at church, and I’m not telling a story, my pastor was praying over my kids, and he told me to go home and pack my stuff because he said God told him I was fixing to get a house,” Paris said. “He said God will supply all of your needs. Not too long after that, they ran it in the paper about the next Habitat house, and my co-worker told me to apply, and I did, and it was like everything came together.”

The new homeowner, who said her favorite part of the house is the front porch, hopes a safer, bigger and better home will afford her children more opportunities for success.

“I wanted a better surrounding and a better environment for my kids to grow up in,” she said. “I hope this helps them to lead positive lives, be successful and teaches them to put God first.”

Paris and the Habitat for Humanity board are hosting an open house July 23 at 5:30 p.m. for the public to tour the home and meet the family.

Habitat has no immediate plans for its next home as it builds funds for the project. For more information, contact Landers at 256-401-3121 or celestelanders@aol.com.

Contact Emily Adams at eadams@dailyhome.com.

© 2013