Parishes join forces in Habitat project



GREENVILLE — The Catholic churches of Greenville County are helping a woman build a dream.

Seven parishes — Blessed Trinity, Our Lady of the Rosary, Prince of Peace, St. Anthony, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Mary, and St. Mary Magdalene — have combined funds and forces to build a Habitat home for Jessie Jones, a woman who has long dreamed of owning her own home.

If all goes according to schedule, construction on Jones’ home will be finished by the end of October. John Conway, coordinator of the seven-church project, said, “We are probably a little ahead of schedule. … We’ve had good turnout.”

According to Bob Whitley, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County, move-in generally occurs about 30 days after completion of construction. He hopes to get Jones into her new home in time for Thanksgiving.

Habitat for Humanity homes are modest but comfortable and soundly constructed. Habitat has its own quality assurance system, and all houses meet building codes.

Habitat divides construction work between volunteers and building subcontractors. The subcontractors do plumbing, electrical, concrete, heating-ventilation-air conditioning, blow insulation into the attic, install and finish drywall, and lay all flooring. Volunteers do the rest.

Typical volunteer tasks include framing, sheathing walls, setting up prefabricated roof trusses, sheathing and shingling the roof, installing doors, windows and siding, putting up wall insulation, assembling and installing all cabinetry, installing countertops, painting, and landscaping.

Jones’ home is a “weekender.” Volunteers work on Fridays and Saturdays, and subcontractors work on Mondays through Thursdays. The total time to construct a typical Habitat house in Greenville is five weekends unless the house is a “blitz.” Blitz houses are built in a week with volunteers and subcontractors working together.

Conway stressed that a Habitat house is not a free house. The sponsoring group raises the funds for construction, which is $36,000 in Greenville’s Habitat for Humanity subdivision. Local businesses also make generous donations, both in material and money, that help offset the cost. The owner pays for the house with several hundred hours of sweat equity — working side by side with volunteers — and takes out a 20-year interest-free mortgage to repay Habitat. Habitat then applies the new owner’s mortgage payments to starting a house for somebody else.

Conway said, “Habitat is a crucial piece of the housing puzzle — it’s not the whole piece.… Habitat is making a difference in people’s lives.… When they move in, they’re homeowners.” A drive around the peaceful neighborhood reveals pride of ownership and families who are becoming a community.

The progress of Jones’ house is being recorded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishioner Tina Byrnes. She plans to present Jones with a scrapbook of photos.

Jones, whose five children are grown and on their own, plans to adopt a little girl in the very near future. Thanks to Habitat of Humanity, Jones has been approved to proceed with adoption. She hopes to be sharing her new home with her new daughter by Christmas.