12/24/07 — Habitat for Humanity families are guests at Christmas party

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Habitat for Humanity families are guests at Christmas party

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 24, 2007 1:50 PM

Crystal Robbins still can’t believe she will soon have a home of her own.

“It’s like a dream. I keep asking, are we really getting a house? My oldest has been waiting for his own room for the longest time,” Mrs. Robbins said. She and her husband, George, live in Grantham with their two sons, 8-year-old Sam and 4-year-old Johnnie.

But sometime next year, they are going to move into a house they have built with volunteers for Habitat for Humanity of Goldsboro-Wayne County.

Habitat delivers gifts like this to families all year. The houses aren’t free, but the care and support and most of the labor come at no cost.

The Robbins’ new home will be on Hillsboro Street in Mount Olive, next door to one that is close to being finished now.

They are officially now members of the Habitat family — a closely knit group of neighbors in Habitat mini-communities throughout Goldsboro and Mount Olive.

Habitat holds several get-togethers for the families throughout the year, but the biggest is a Christmas party, which was held recently in the fellowship hall at First Baptist Church in Goldsboro.

And although it has been a couple of months now since the Habitat Family Selection Committee chose the Robbins family, they were all still excited by the festivities at the Christmas party. Ten Habitat families attended the party, which featured pizza and sandwiches provided free by Pizza Inn and Subway and Cinnabuns from CiCi’s. Each child received a stocking and a wrapped gift provided by the county Board of Realtors.

One of the Realtors, Terry Hampton of Realty World, said she wondered if there would be enough children to go around after she noticed some agents were adopting two and three children at a time. And this year, there were agents’ assistants and even lenders helping with the project.

This year, Habitat invited 45 children to attend the Christmas party.

The Habitat families have to meet strict criteria to qualify for a home, Mrs. Hampton explained. She was on the Habitat board of directors for several years and still volunteers for the Family Support Committee. The parents have to meet income guidelines — working but still not making too much money — and contribute 400 hours of house building, which is called “sweat equity.”

A lot of the parents work two jobs to make ends meet, she said, and Christmas can still be a lean time for working families.

“These children would probably fall through the cracks, because their parents make too much money to qualify for other kinds of help with presents,” Mrs. Hampton said.

In addition to the Realtors’ gifts piled up in the front of the fellowship hall, the Habitat staff and volunteers had three tables loaded with toys and another three full of clothing items.

Habitat homeowner and veteran volunteer Maria Rodriguez has watched the crowds grow each Christmas.

“I can’t believe we already have 45 children,” said Mrs. Rodriguez, who lives in the first house that was built on John Street. Now, there are several Habitat houses together in the little John Street community.

Mrs. Rodriguez and her 16-year-old daughter, Carmelina, have been in the house for four years. She still volunteers for Habitat, taking lunch to the work crews and helping with the informational meetings that are held each month.

She also is on the Habitat board of directors. As a member of the Family Support Committee, she helps other Hispanic families understand the process of applying for a Habitat house and keeps up with them through the entire process.

Habitat family services and volunteer coordinator Katie Huston works with the Family Support Committee to help make the transition smoother.

“We require that they attend a home ownership workshop and a meeting with Consumer Credit counseling,” she said. “We also try to offer as many other financial classes that we can.”

And throughout the building process, the Habitat experts teach the new homeowners about their home and show how to fix problems and how to do preventive maintenance like painting and caulking.

Mrs. Huston said the new homeowners are usually both excited and apprehensive about moving into their new home. But through their communication with her and the Family Support Committee, all their questions get answered, she said.

Habitat is currently looking for members to join the Family Support Committee. For information about how you can help a new homeowner through the transition process, call Habitat at 736-9592.

Mrs. Huston said it’s not rare for people like Mrs. Rodriguez to return to Habitat to help others move into a home of their own. About 20 percent of the families come back after their houses are done and help out after they have moved into their homes, she said.

This year, Habitat had five families move into new homes. Six other families are still waiting for their houses to be finished.