Community members and fellow Habitat for Humanity family members helped the Hembree; Hopkins; Upton; Ray and Janet Smith; Meroney and Linda Smith families celebrate home ownership with food, music and ribbon cuttings.
“We’re here to celebrate six very hard-working families as they begin a new chapter of their lives,” Habitat board of directors vice president Tommy Wright said.
The largest family receiving keys was the Ray and Janet Smith family. The couple have five children. The family will move into a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the next few days. The process has taken about a year and a half, according to Janet Smith.
“It’s wonderful. I couldn’t describe it in words, just to be able to own a house,” Janet Smith said.
Ray said as excited as he was, the fact that his children were happy meant even more to him.
During the dedication ceremony, homeowner Linda Smith spoke of Habitat being one large family.
“The first meeting was with Nicole Harris and Matt Carlson. Matt said he was there to welcome us to the Habitat family. We didn’t at that time know the size of the family, but we have since found out that the family is large. And, we’ve been made to feel a part of the family,” Linda Smith said.
She thanked all the volunteers and habitat staff for their help and encouragement.
“It’s just a house now, but when we move in it will be a home,” Linda Smith said. “Our children will have the security of knowing that this house is their home.” She said the houses will provide a “place to be proud of” and make and share memories in.
In front of the Meroney house, Delia thanked the volunteers for all they had done before cutting the blue ribbon stretched across the entrance to her home.
The Tonya and Jason Hopkins family let their son Canaan cut the dedication ribbon to their new home.
Along the journey from acceptance to key presentation, Habitat families have a family advocate to help them with the process.
Family advocate Sue Burger said she will always remember the day she called Judy Hembree to tell her that the family had been approved for a Habitat house.
“You would have thought she won the lottery ... They are a wonderful family,” Burger said.
Hembree beamed as she put the key in her lock, and opened her front door for the first time.
Family advocates keep in contact with the families after they move in to continue to answer questions.
For Alicia Upton, the home dedication celebration was not the first time she had expressed her joy over getting her new home. Last month, Upton shared her story with the community during a Habitat Hard Hat Tour.
There were prayers of dedication and prayers for each of the families receiving keys.
The Rev. Bob Zwarych of Joy Christian Fellowship presented each family with a Bible, saying it provided the “keys of life.” He said he hoped the Bible would be a reminder of the day when they received the keys to their home.
Habitat homes are not free but offer interest-free mortgages. Families also invest in their homes through “sweat equity” in building and planning for receiving a house. This Habitat term of being involved in the building process has taken on new meaning for future homeowners as temperatures reached above 100 degrees.
Volunteers make Habitat home dedications possible. For more information about volunteering, contact Emily Rush at 423-476-6947.