SLOAN COLUMN: Habitat, hard work lead to a new home
Like any mother, India McLellan wants her children to have a good life and a good home. She wants them to know that if you work hard and don’t give up, good things can happen.
A good thing, a very good thing, will happen for the 34-year-old mother of five on Wednesday. She will be presented two keys. The first will be a large cardboard replica handed to her during a dedication ceremony. The other will be an actual key - one that will unlock the door to a new home and a new future for India and her family.
After working and waiting for nearly a year, India will become the latest Greater Florence Habitat for Humanity homeowner. She and her children, ranging in age from 14 years to five months, will soon be moving into the newly completed 1,693-square-foot, two-story home located on the corner of Railroad Avenue and Pine Street. The house will come complete with all appliances – refrigerator, stove, washer/dryer, etc.
“It’s exciting,” said India. “ I’m not sure if I ever thought this day would come. It will literally be like a breath of fresh air for me and my family.”
It was a little less that a year ago when the apartment India and her children were staying in was flooded by the rainwater of hurricanes Florence and Michael. India said the flooding left mold and mildew, which made it very hard to breath at times. She knew it was not healthy, but with nowhere to go they stuck it out for as long as they could.
India had already been approved and accepted into the Habitat for Humanity homeowner’s program. It requires prospective homeowners to build up sweat equity hours working at the home site or in the Habitat Restore. This, combined with her full-time job as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, kept India very busy. It also made her dependant on her sister and mother to help care for her growing brood. Remember, she was pregnant with her youngest, who was born in early June.
“It was definitely kind of stressful,” India admits, “but you do what you have to do. God gave me the strength and the energy I needed to get through.”
India’s extraordinary efforts in juggling family life, a full-time job, and Habitat commitments did not go unnoticed.
“India is a hardworking individual,” said Debbie Edward, executive director of the Greater Florence Habitat for Humanity.
“She began working on her home from the very start of construction. She is handy with a shovel, paintbrush, hammer, nails and drilling the screws into wood boards to form the foundation of her home.”
Edwards added that along the way India became quite adept at using the tools of the construction trade.
“India is very proud of the new skills she was taught by our project manager, Rob Lewis with Lewis Construction,” said Edwards. “We joke that India could probably begin her own construction company.”
In June, shortly after baby Kylie was born, India and her growing brood – Ionna, Maliki, Karen, Kobe and newborn Kylie – moved in with her sister. The small apartment is more than a little cramped, but not for long thanks to Habitat and a mother’s determined efforts.
“I am beyond grateful for my mom and sister and everything they’ve done for me and my kids,” she said. “I could not have done this without them.”
As India will tell you, the house is not a free handout to those who qualify. You have to work – a minimum of 300 sweat equity hours. This ensures that the owner has a part in the building of their new home. To be able to say, “I helped build this place,” goes a long way in helping build something else - self-esteem.
Once construction is completed, there will be an interest-free mortgage that needs to be paid on time each month. Of course, there are also the costs of upkeep that go along with owning a place of your own.
Once the mortgage is paid, the home is theirs.
The folks at Habitat are quick to point out that homeownership is not a short-term fix. It can benefit generations to come. In India’s case, the new home on the corner of Railroad and Pine may serve as collateral on a college loan for Ionna, Maliki, Karen or Kobe. Who knows, one day it may even belong to little Kylie.
In the mean time, Habitat will continue to build homes and make a difference in the lives of people like India McLellan.
For information on Habitat for Humanity, contact the office in your area:
• Greater Florence Habitat for Humanity – 1354 Celebration Drive, Suite A, Florence; phone (843) 665-1624; www.florencehabitat.com
• Darlington County Habitat for Humanity – 120 W. Washington St., Hartsville; phone (843) 383-8500; ww.darcohabitat.org.
• Marion County Habitat for Humanity – 151 West Godbold Street, Marion; phone: (843) 464-3747; www.marionschabitatforhumanity.org.
• Chesterfield County Habitat for Humanity – 1 Village Park, Cheraw; phone (843) 320-1014; www.facebook.com/Chesterfield-County-Habitat-for-Humanity-Restore-Cheraw-SC