In an historic midday ceremony that began with a Black Fox Farms luncheon and ended at the 20th Street subdivision for the traditional Litany of Dedication, the smiling Hetibacks became the 100th family to move into a Habitat-constructed home in the Cleveland organization’s 22-year history.
Also on hand for the presentation of keys — which were given by Lee University’s Chris Conine — were the four Hetiback youngsters — Sylvanna, 17; Veston, 14; Vesrod, 13; and Stelson, 7.
To double the day’s pleasure, Habitat volunteers and community supporters also dedicated Home No. 98 which is next door to the Hetibacks. Accepting these keys were Tracy Gann and her two children — Noah, 11, and Destiny, who proudly proclaimed to be “9 3/4.”
Habitat for Humanity volunteers will dedicate homes No. 101 and No. 102 next week.
Of his island homeland located in the Western Pacific in the same region as the Philippines and Indonesia, Hetiback explained in broken English, “... It is a poor country.” He described it as “overpopulated and dangerous.”
The Hetibacks already had relatives who lived in Cleveland so they moved to the U.S. seven years ago.
“Our children will have a better chance to prosper in Cleveland, Tenn., than other places,” he said. “... We have moved here [because] we have more opportunities [in] education, jobs and freedom. No matter what country we are from, every man wants to provide his own home, to give his family security.”
Hetiback said as a husband and father, he has yearned for such an opportunity.
“These things we have sought to find, and we have found them here,” he said. “My family and I are really excited today ... special thanks to the sponsors, and to the workers who are helping me and my family to bring us into this brand new house. Words cannot express the gratitude that we feel. We thank God for this special blessing.”
Hetiback also recognized the home’s construction partners, especially lead sponsor Lee University whose staff, faculty and students were sponsoring their third Habitat home.
“Friends and neighbors of Cleveland and Bradley County, thank you so much,” he added.
On-site at the dedication ceremonies, Gann said her family too is excited to be Habitat homeowners. At one time, the family was homeless.
“This is just overwhelming,” she said. “[This home] means a lot to me and to my family ... to be able to have a place where the kids will grow up and to be a part of this community.”
Because the day’s events were historic for the local Habitat affiliate, they included several presentations, one of which came from Dr. Paul Conn, 26-year president of Lee University, who delivered the luncheon’s keynote address.
Like several other community organizations and companies, Lee University is a longtime partner with Habitat for Humanity. Conn reflected to the school’s first home build at a site located between the school and Brown Stove Works.
“We could tell immediately this was our kind of project,” Conn told the luncheon gathering.
He added, “We have loved being involved in many, many ways ever since then.” The veteran educator, who was described by Habitat volunteer Jerry Bohannon as “the ignitor of the Lee Flame,” praised Habitat for Humanity for its community impact while generating little controversy in its work.
Conn pointed to Habitat as a nonprofit group that makes a difference through “... pure creativity and energy and community support.”
As a nonprofit itself, Lee University traditionally does not financially support other nonprofits. Habitat for Humanity is an exception. In the president’s words, “... How can we not support Habitat?” Conn said Habitat “... reaches out to all kinds of people, all kinds of skills [and] has all kinds of energy.”
He added, “We’re just thrilled to be a part of it.”
Lee University’s volunteer support for Habitat is a widespread one that includes staff members, faculty, students, campus organizations and others. Conn himself physically worked on the construction site of House No. 100 during the raising of the walls.
“What is it about Habitat that is such a great fit for Lee?” Conn rhetorically asked his noonday listeners. “I think it’s the same thing that makes it a great fit for all of you.”
He listed three common values shared by Habitat, Lee and other community organizations that support Habitat. They include:
- A belief in the importance of family.
- A belief in serving others.
- A belief in the power of community.
“Families don’t live in houses,” Conn said. “Families live in homes. They create homes. They inhabit homes. The connection to Habitat for all of us is our belief in the family.”
Serving others is equally as important, he noted.
“We believe in the impulse in the human spirit that says you haven’t really lived until you have lived a life of giving,” Conn stressed.
Of the power of community, he pointed to Cleveland’s fundamental values.
“This is a town with a huge heart,” Conn said. “This is a town that loves to give ... and a town in which people are all different stripes, all different types, who come together and work in bringing all their different gifts to do things for others. That doesn’t happen anywhere more than at Habitat for Humanity.”
In tribute to Habitat’s milestone of reaching 100 homes, Conn announced Lee University is launching a new program — to be coordinated through Mike Hays, vice president for Student Development — in which the university will provide a college course free of charge to each member of a new Habitat house. He said such students could be parents interested in learning life skills or their children who are exploring their educational path.
He pledged Lee University’s continued support for the Habitat mission.
“As long as there is a Lee University and a Habitat for Humanity in this community, we will be stepping up to be your partners,” Conn closed. “Congratulations on this wonderful milestone. God Bless you.”
In other developments:
- Barry Boettner, chairman of the Habitat for Humanity board of directors, told the luncheon crowd the organization values all levels of gifts. Of those received from individuals and community partners since 1990, he pointed out, “Some of these contributions were large. Some were small. But every contribution was important.” He thanked Habitat’s community partners for helping the nonprofit to reach the 100th home milestone.
- Habitat volunteer Cliff Hudson said Habitat over the years has worked with many community partners; however, a handful have worked with the local organization since almost the beginning. He called them “stalwart organizations” whose ongoing support has been consistent and unconditional. He said his list is not all-inclusive, but he did point to the longstanding support of Broad Street United Methodist Church (where the idea of a local Habitat affiliate was actually founded), First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Easy Auto, Whirlpool, the city of Cleveland, Lee University, Habitat ReStore, Ocoee Region Builders Association, Bank of Cleveland and Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club.
- Sponsors of the 100th home were also recognized. They included the Lead Sponsor, Lee University; Foundation Sponsors: Habitat ReStore, Bradley Sunrise Rotary, Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati and Whirlpool Corporation; and Community Builders Society: Bank of Cleveland, KACE Developments, Knights of Columbus/Queen of Heaven, Resolute Forest Products, TVA and Fitzgerald Family Foundation. The sponsorship list included 57 individual donors.
- Mara Grisham, chairman of the Habitat Family Advocate Committee who has volunteered as an advocate for 20 years, explained her involvement and the roller coaster of emotions that families go through in preparing to become Habitat homeowners, in helping to build their houses, in becoming integral members of the community and in serving as Habitat volunteers once they have moved into their own homes. Grisham thanked Habitat volunteers and community supporters for making it possible to see “the true faces of Habitat ... the homeowners.”
n Bob Zwarych, pastor of Joy Christian Fellowship, presented Bibles to the Hetiback and Gann families, as well as food baskets, first aid kits and other gifts from Habitat for Humanity, Cleveland State Community College and The Caring Place.
- Annie Kinworthy, who leads Community Development for the Habitat affiliate, presented Habitat Hero Awards and also recognized longtime volunteers Hazel Spain and Jim Tucker, who were celebrating birthdays Wednesday. Tucker was the first recipient of the Habitat Hero Award in 2010. This year’s honorees included the entire group of construction core volunteers. Each received plaques of appreciation.
- Three longtime Habitat volunteers — Don Rollens, Chuck Haney and Charlie Bolick — were recognized as workers whose hands had touched almost every home built by Habitat for Humanity in its local 22-year history. In the words of volunteer builder Danny Britt who led the tribute, “This is a crew effort. We want you to know that we really do have a high regard for these three. They don’t work for the recognition they might get. They work for the desire to help others.” Rollens has helped to build Habitat houses in Cleveland for 21 years, Haney for 20 years and Bolick has served as the organization’s primary electrician on half of the local home builds.
Rollens summed up the feelings of his fellow volunteers by telling the crowd, “We’ve come a long way since House No. 1. It’s been my privilege to be a small part of that ... to help build these first 100 homes. Even though I’m getting up in years, I hope I can help build the next 100. I’m looking forward to that.”
- Tommy Wright, vice president of the Habitat board who represents Cleveland State, closed the dedication luncheon by asking the audience to look to the future and the Habitat vision. “As we move forward, let us ask, ‘What is our dream?’” he stated.
- Special recognition was given to organizations making the dedication luncheon possible: Black Fox Farms, Olive Garden, Cooke’s Food Store, Melinda Nicodemus Photography and Five Star Food Service.