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Habitat Stories

Habitat Family Built Lasting Memories

As teenagers, the Dowell Brothers—Jamal, Devante and James--helped build their Habitat home, where their mother, Dorraine, still lives. Now grown, the brothers look back fondly on their Habitat experience.
Jamal, now a homeowner himself and working as a local barber, recalls moving in. “I was the very first one to have my whole room setup completely. Man, I was so excited to have a brand new house!”
The youngest, James, says he was proud to tell his schoolmates about their new home. “It’s something to brag about, to have a Habitat house,” he says. 
Devante, the middle son, recently purchased a home in Scottsville. As a carpenter for U.Va., he often thinks back on the lesson that Habitat construction supervisor Ken Jollofsky taught him more than a decade ago on the job site: “Measure twice, cut once.” 
Even now Devante remembers the change he and his brothers saw in their mother after they moved into their new Habitat home. “Her attitude changed because she finally had that house. She definitely was happy.” 

Habitat Home Brings Hope

Mariam Anwary (right), her sister Nahida (left), and her mother Zainab (center)

Mariam Anwary recalls when she and her family first moved into publicly subsidized housing. “Three people (Mariam, her mother and her sister) were living in a one-bedroom house. We slept on the floor.” Things weren’t much better outside. “I remember every single night there would be one or two chaotic events going on.” For 13-year-old Mariam, the situation seemed hopeless. “My dreams were being shattered.” 
But when her family moved into their Habitat home, Mariam says her life changed dramatically. “My dreams started blooming again. As soon as I stepped into the house, I felt all my worries go away. It changed my life. For the first time I stepped into an empty house but I wasn’t afraid.”--The Anwary Family, Habitat Homeowners


Building Up Children

Carolyn Brown and Lucy Burnette

The Community Conversations program brings families who will be neighbors in new Habitat communities together for monthly meetings to discuss their common future. For nearly a decade, Carolyn Brown and Lucy Burnette have taught children in the program how to build relationships, resolve conflict, and be good neighbors.

Carolyn says volunteering with Habitat is her way of addressing the issue of affordable housing in Charlottesville. “It’s very complex and very big. But this is one way that I can do something about it.” Lucy cites a similar motivation. “Volunteering for Habitat is the perfect merger of everything that I love. It’s my personal way of being able to make a difference in my own community, one child at a time. Children are our future.”--Carolyn Brown and Lucy Burnette, Habitat Volunteers


Donors Support Habitat’s Mission

Mike and Mary Chinn with their son Austin and daughter Lilly

Although Mike and Mary Chinn made a significant contribution to the lives of Habitat families last year via a generous donation, the seeds of their passion for the mission were sown years ago. “We first became familiar with Habitat through Mary’s work with the inaugural Charlottesville Women Build, and later, her participation in a local weekday work crew and the Jimmy Carter Work Project in South Africa. We began supporting Habitat because we imagined a happier, more secure future for these new homeowners and their children.” 

“Finding safe, affordable, stable housing is the first step on the path forward for many families in our community, and we’re grateful for Habitat’s role in making this possible.”--Mike and Mary Chinn, Habitat Donors


Building Confidence on the Job Site

Kristina Muldoon, Habitat Homeowner

“I saw my cousin go through the Habitat homeownership program, and I knew that I could do it. It’s so important to me to be a positive example for my son and show him what hard work can accomplish.

“I’ve seen him gain a lot of confidence since he started working to build our home. Living in a trailer has been hard for his self-esteem. He hasn’t felt comfortable inviting people over. But he’s already getting excited about bringing friends to our new house. I’m giving Nevin a lift so future generations can do better.”--Kristina Muldoon, Habitat Homeowner




Family Experiences Joy of Purchasing a Home

The Wood-Shelton Family, Habitat Homeowners

"In winter of 2017 we received the call that forever changed our lives... As the phone was ringing, my heart was pounding and I heard, 'Holly, you and your family have been accepted to be a Habitat partner family!' Those words replayed in my head as I ran inside to relay the message to my family. 'We did it!' I exclaimed.'We are purchasing a home with Charlottesville Habitat!' The kids' faces lit up and they jumped with joy." -- Holly Wood-Shelton, Habitat Homeowner



Habitat Homeowner Realizes Her Dream

Norma at the dedication of her Habitat home

For Norma, the dedication celebration for her Habitat home was overwhelming. During the event, she thought her heart “would melt with emotions.”Norma was now a homeowner. She and her three children would finally have a place of their own. “Every family dreams of having a home, and Habitat is the way to make the dream come true,” Norma says. She adds that the Habitat staff, donors and families who partnered with her are now like family. “They gave us hope.”

She is proud of the skills she learned and the work she did on other Habitat families’ houses. “I gave a piece of my heart to other people so they can feel like I do.”

Norma is excited about her new home and her new neighborhood, close to her job as a cook at a local restaurant. Her daughter Stacy, 13, will have her own room. Sons Thiago and Yadir will have a safe place to play and ride their bikes.--Norma, Habitat Homeowner


Working to Create a Community

Mohammad Shafiqi and his children

In Afghanistan, we had great people around us. My father and I owned a small store, and we were close with our neighbors. Everyone knew each other and I want to create that feeling here. Through Habitat I get to learn from many different people, give back to others, and provide a lifelong home for my children.--Mohammad Shafiqi, Habitat Homeowner







Habitat's First Homeowner

Meredith and her son in front of their Habitat home

Phyllis Meredith was the first Charlottesville Habitat homeowner. She paid off the mortgage on her home in 2007.

I decided to take a chance and apply when I heard that Habitat was starting to build homes here in Charlottesville. My youngest son was very sick in the hospital, and we needed a stable home to call our own. My sons' lives are so much better because of our Habitat home. In 2007, when I paid off the house in full, my friends at Habitat threw me a party. When I held the deed to my own house it was one of the proudest moments of my life. This house is invaluable to me-it's something i can leave for my kids when I'm gone. And I helped build it with my own hands, so I know how to fix things when they go wrong. I'm so thankful to have been the first Habitat homeowner in Charlottesville, and to see how many other families have joined me. It's been an amazing blessing, and it's led to so many other blessings for our family. -- Phyllis Meredith, Habitat's First Homeowner


Habitat Bridging Partnerships in the Community

Ridge Schuyler, founder of Charlottesville Works Initiative and dean of community self-sufficiency programs at Piedmont Virginia Community College

“So many folks in the Charlottesville area work full time but can’t afford to live here. I help people gain skills and training so they can make a decent wage. But you can’t be a good employee if you don’t have adequate shelter. Habitat is a forward-looking, fierce, and effective advocate for housing in our community. They helped us think through the vast array of issues that arise for a family looking for a stable home. No single organization can meet the needs of every family. Whether through housing, employment, childcare, or transportation, we have the chance to really pull people up in the world and move them from self-sufficiency to financial security. We need to work together and look at what the community really needs. Habitat has led that charge.” – Ridge Schuyler, founder of Charlottesville Works Initiative and dean of community self-sufficiency programs at Piedmont Virginia Community College

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