05/02/10 — Helping families get homes of their own

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Helping families get homes of their own

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 2, 2010 1:50 AM

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Emily Bailey, left, and Kelly Head of Goldsboro hike through Stoney Creek Park to raise money for Habitat for Humanity on Saturday during the Hike for Humanity. Miss Head and Miss Bailey came to help raise money for Habitat because they wanted to do something for their community, they said.

For Roxanne Butler and her son, Raquan Bennett, warming up for Saturday's Hike for Humanity through Stoney Creek Park was more than just a way to spend their morning -- it was a way to show their appreciation and to encourage others to support the program.

They have been in their new Habitat for Humanity house since last June.

"It (Habitat) is a wonderful program," she said. "I think everybody should join and participate as much as they can. It is wonderful, wonderful."

Ms. Butler said she plans to continue to support Habitat so that others can have homes of their own.

"Of course, keep it going, keep it going," she said. "(This hike) is a wonderful thing and it will make you appreciative. This is my first time being a homeowner, so I am learning a lot of great new things."

The goal for Saturday's event was to raise the cost of building a Habitat house, about $60,000, said Olivia Wiggins, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity.

It is the first time the event has been held.

"We will see how it goes and possibly make it an annual event," Ms. Wiggins said. "Between sponsorships and ticket sales, we will see how close we get."

In addition to the food and inflatables for children, the group also offered several prize drawings as well as the actual hike, which took place through Stoney Creek Park. For those who were more experienced, there was a mile-and-a-half trek, others who were a little less ambitious could try the half-mile course.

And after all that walking, it was time for a picnic.

About 20 sponsors, some of whom set up booths, were scattered throughout the park. Other sponsors just wanted to contribute and not get any recognition for it, Ms. Wiggins said.

Numerous city departments including police and fire, as well as the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and members of the fire department and security forces from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base participated.

A number of nonprofit organizations, including the Red Cross, were on hand, too.

The idea was to create a community atmosphere, Ms. Wiggins said of the county Habitat efforts.

And that included helping to build a shed for a Habitat home, a chance for participants to actually contribute some physical labor to support the organization's mission of putting families in affordable homes of their own.

The local Habitat has completed 36 houses and has four more under construction that should be finished by the end of June.

Habitat is not a giveaway program, Ms. Wiggins said.

"We don't give our houses away," she said. "Our homeowners go through a selection process, and there are lots of requirements. The biggest is income. There is a bracket you have to fit in. You have to be low enough in income where you couldn't afford the average rent, but you have to be high enough where you can afford our mortgage. Our homeowners do take on a 20-year mortgage and they also give us at least 300 hours of what we call 'sweat equity.'"

The idea, she said, is to give families an affordable payment that will allow them to cover the other costs of owning a home.

"The average rent in Goldsboro is about $975," Ms. Wiggins said. "Our average mortgage is $325. We try to free up some income for those families to be able to pay whatever bills they have, pay off some debt and put some money into savings."

Those interested in applying for the program should attend the informational meetings that are held on the first Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at the WAGES building on Royal Avenue.

Volunteers are always welcome, Ms. Wiggins said.

Beginning May 3 Habitat will switch to an online scheduling system. Volunteers can now go to www.habitatgoldsboro.org and follow the link to sign up to register and to schedule their time.

"We have more than a construction site, we also have our Habitat ReStore downtown that takes volunteers as well," Ms. Wiggins said.