Four new townhomes, four new beginnings

Our Towns Habitat for Humanity celebrated two milestones in Mooresville's historic mill village last Sunday.

The Cornelius-based housing ministry dedicated its first set of townhomes and surpassed the 200 mark in the number of working families it's helped to become homeowners in the Lake Norman area since the late 1980s.

About 150 Habitat volunteers raised their hands in prayer at last Sunday's home-blessing ceremonies on East Mills Avenue for new homeowners Patricia Reid, 54, James Caldwell, 45, Rachel Felts, 22, and Sherian Black, 51, and their families. East Mills Avenue is off Brawley Avenue and N.C. 115, in the former Mooresville Mills village.

Black, for one, had waited decades for this day.

Expecting to own a home, she'd bought figurines, a fainting couch, a chandelier and other household items over the years.

But raising a son on her own, Black told me, she wasn't able to buy one as soon as she'd hoped.

"I thought it would get easier, but it just got harder," said Black, an administrative secretary at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources office in Mooresville.

Habitat made homeownership finally possible for her.

Black and the other homeowners each logged scores of "sweat equity" hours, helping build their homes and other Habitat homes, as the nonprofit requires to qualify for a home. Black also worked many hours at the Habitat ReStore in Mooresville, where proceeds help build more homes.

"I have put in so many hours at the ReStore that I lost count," Black told the volunteers Sunday after thanking them for all they'd done for her and Habitat.

"Shopping doesn't count!" shouted one of her many friends in the crowd.

It was just that kind of day, with lots of smiles and laughter after all the hard work that went into building the two-story townhomes.

Habitat, an international, non-denominational Christian housing ministry, helps people buy their houses through no-profit, no-interest mortgages. Payments go in the revolving Fund for Humanity to finance construction of more houses.

The organization also conducts classes for its homeowners on everything from how to become financially fit to how to care for a home.

Each homeowner holds a job - Reid is a receptionist at Ingersoll-Rand's corporate center in Davidson, Felts works data entry at in Mooresville, and Caldwell is a materials handler at BestSweet in Mooresville.

The townhomes will cost each family $90,500 over their 20- to 30-year mortgages, Our Towns Executive Director Terry Laney said. The homes are 1,200 square feet, with three bedrooms and two baths. Six more Habitat townhomes will be built beside them.

Volunteers from Davidson College Presbyterian Church helped build Black's home. The others were sponsored by Habitat's Fund for Humanity, Our Towns Habitat ReStore and the Henry Eddy Memorial, established in memory of a longtime Our Towns Habitat volunteer.

Volunteers at Sunday's gathering said they labor on the homes because they know it changes lives.

"You're helping people, and making the world a little bit better," Our Towns Habitat board member Mal Murray said.

Black already has plans for her new neighborhood.

Across the parking lot from the townhomes, she's going to start a garden where all her neighbors can help, she said.