The volunteer builder crew for Clinton County Habitat for Humanity has a tradition of scribbling messages and blessings on the framework of a home. Last week, “Bless all who enter” appeared on the doorway of Donovan Butler’s new home being built on Paris Avenue.
“The first time I saw that, it choked me up,” confessed Donovan Butler. He knew that volunteers would write caring messages before the drywall covering would hide their sentiments, but the surprise is how meaningful it was. “To be a first time home owner—it’s roots and knowing that you have a place. It’s understanding that you will have a home and the people who worked on it, do it with love.”
Butler and his partner, Stephanie Oberlin, got involved with Habitat through the urging of Eleanor Harris, a board member of the local Habitat chapter. She said that a simple chat could be life changing. That was in 2015.
The first thing that Butler said to the Habitat group was, “I want to be able to give my children something—this home will be that.” Oberlin and Butler’s commitment to building a legacy is all that Habitat for Humanity can hope for in prospective home partners/buyers.
“We want partners to see their home as part of a community. It is up to them to keep that community strong by maintaining it for the next generation,” said Jim Krusling, the president of the local organization.
There is a Butler family connection to Habitat through his aunt, who became a Habitat homeowner in 2004. “That house has been a safe haven for me and my extended family.” During tough times, he and his children lived with his aunt. Many of his family and their friends have found his aunt’s home to be a place to gather for joyous holiday celebrations.
Once they started the process, it moved quickly from talking to action. More than a year has gone by, but Donovan and Stephanie have been active participants in their home’s plan and worked with last summer’s house build in Clarksville. They have 500 sweat equity hours to fulfill and then, there are more volunteer hours in assisting the organization after their home is built.
“The owner’s hours are invaluable to them,” said Krusling. “They learn how their home works. They know how good it feels to be able to build a home that is theirs.”
There is a common misconception that the prospective homeowner’s sweat equity hours are the payment for a Habitat home. All Habitat homes are financed with no-interest mortgages that are set to meet the homeowner’s ability to repay. “The mortgages are not crippling monthly amounts, but it does require financial awareness and a budget,” said Krusling. The cost of a local Habitat house is estimated at $55,000.
Habitat is supported locally through generous donors, companies and the Restore, which is located on 1032 West Main near Houston’s Heating and Cooling in Wilmington.