11/06/11 — Habitat for Humanity observes 10th birthday

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Habitat for Humanity observes 10th birthday

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on November 6, 2011 1:50 AM

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Maria Rodriguez proudly raises her hand to show that she lives in a Habitat for Humanity home. Ms. Rodriguez also is a Habitat board member.

Sure, you could measure the impact of Habitat for Humanity of Wayne County in years, but the figure that truly reflects the organization's influence on the Wayne County area over the past decade is 45 -- the number of homes the group has built for the less fortunate.

That, Elizabeth Rutland, Habitat's development coordinator, is why she and her staff wanted to celebrate the group's 10th birthday Saturday -- to allow members of the community who have supported Habitat for Humanity so much in the past decade the opportunity to see the product of their sacrifice.

"We wanted to have a birthday party to celebrate the community support. So they can see how far we've come and the fruits of their labor. We're constantly asking for help -- 80 percent of our homes are built by local volunteers -- and we're glad they're coming back and seeing how far it has gone," she said.

Volunteers, staff members, Habitat homeowners and others were on hand Saturday as the group celebrated its birthday with cake, a lunch and shopping specials at the Habitat ReStore on East Mulberry Street.

Goldsboro Police Capt. Al King, a member of the Habitat board of directors, was there for the celebration and explained what got him involved in the organization more than a year ago.

"The look on someone's face when they get their new home is priceless," he said.

King was asked to join a build about a year and a half ago and fell in love with the organization. Now he's an active participant on the board and is an advocate for educating the public about the organization, especially in light of what he characterized as a misconception about the Habitat program.

"We don't give houses away," he explained. "We start people on the process of becoming homeowners, and these homeowners work hard. These are very good families."

Families like Maria Rodriguez's. She has lived in the Wayne Chapter's fifth home for nearly eight years, but that didn't end her involvement with Habitat -- she now sits on the board of directors and is an active participant with family selection and family support, especially for families who speak Spanish as she is of Hispanic heritage.

Ms. Rodriguez said she feels she has a special bond with the families since she can relate to them directly, but even though her role on the board and as a Habitat for Humanity benefactor, she wasn't the most celebrated home recipient at the celebration Saturday.

That honor belonged to Beverly Best, who became first true Habitat homeowner with her final mortgage payment in August. A mortgage burning ceremony highlighted the afternoon portion of the celebration.

Each Habitat homeowner must make a $750 down payment, and then must pay off a zero-interest loan. Paying it off in 10 years, however, is quite an accomplishment, King noted.

A typical home costs between $69,000 and $79,000 due to volunteer work and sponsorships, but is often appraised for more than $100,000, giving homeowners great incentive to pay their homes off to reap the benefits of their investment.

And while the celebration was intended to show supporters what their hard work had accomplished -- from keeping Habitat going for a decade to giving a woman an opportunity to own her own home -- Mrs. Rutland said there were also a lot of donations coming in.

"We've had donations on the spot and all sales directly benefit Habitat for Humanity," she said.

The Habitat ReStore is located at 124 E. Mulberry Street in downtown Goldsboro and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturdays.