Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County supporters on Sunday afternoon celebrated the start of construction of House 57 with its owner-to-be, Kaisha Burroughs. Mashika Reed, who was there Sunday, is scheduled to get the keys to her new home, House 54, Friday.
Sunday's event at the site for Burroughs' house, on Dannie Cartee Road near Portal, was called a groundbreaking. But no shovels were used, which isn't unusual for Habitat. Besides, rain was expected, and a downpour arrived soon after the remarks and prayers concluded.
A home that Kaisha Burroughs and her four children — Roy, now 18, Kobe, 11, Kaishara, 10, and Denzel, 8 — previously shared with her father stood on this same site, but was destroyed by fire more than two years ago. Her father, Wilbert Burroughs, who owned that house, now lives elsewhere, and Kaisha Burroughs will be a first-time homeowner.
Since early 2017, she and her children resided at Studio 6, an extended-stay motel off Statesboro's bypass.
How did they afford it?
"We'd pray," she said, "just pray about it and do what you could do."
Burroughs, a Bulloch County Schools substitute teacher and Mary Kay beauty products consultant, applied with Habitat for Humanity and was approved, based on demonstrated need and ability to repay, to become the buyer of a new four-bedroom, two-bath house.
"So this is our new journey. We're so excited about this," Burroughs said, before expressing thanks to Habitat for Humanity, family and friends.
Now Kobe and Denzel expect to share a room, while Kaishara, Roy and their mother will have separate rooms. At Studio 6, they had one big bed.
Bill Sellers, a member of the local Habitat for Humanity board, visited the family as part of the approval process.
"We visited her in the motel where they were staying, and I couldn't believe how she had organized four children, just unbelievable that they've lived there for over two years and do homework on each corner of the bed, sleep in one bed," he said Sunday. "You've got my kudos. You're Mom of the Year from me."
Earning a home
As a Habitat homeowner, Burroughs will make monthly payments on a 25-year, interest-free mortgage. Usually, the homeowner gets a mortgage that covers a substantial portion but not all of the appraised value, in some cases 75 or 80 percent of the total, and Habitat for Humanity holds a second mortgage for the remainder.
Habitat then forgives a portion of the second mortgage each year that the homeowner is on time with the first-mortgage payments at the anniversary date, explained Kathy Jenkins, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County.
In exchange for these terms, Burroughs, like other Habitat homeowners, has promised to invest 250 hours of "sweat equity." At least 100 hours of this must be in actual construction, of her own home or other Habitat homes, Jenkins said.
Burroughs has also completed required homeowner education classes in family finances, mortgages and stress management. The class hours also count as a few sweat equity hours. So can children's report cards from school with grades of "C" and better, Jenkins said.
Some homeowners also earn hours volunteering at the Habitat ReStore or the nonprofit organization's info booth during community events. But homeowners usually contribute so much labor on construction that the exact number of hours is no longer an issue, Jenkins said.
A family table
Mashika Reed, who is set to close on the loan and receive the keys Friday to her new three-bedroom, one-bath house on College Lane in Statesboro, has probably amassed more than 1,000 hours of sweat equity, Jenkins said.
Since construction began on her home after a May 6, 2018, ceremony, Reed has worked there every Saturday except three, she said.
Also a first-time homeowner, Reed will be moving in with her children Chandler, 11, Cameron, 9, and Chloe, 4. Previously, they resided in a duplex apartment on busy West Jones Avenue. Reed is excited about having a kitchen table and a yard with space for her children to play, off a street with slower traffic.
"We normally eat together every night anyway, but we’ll have a kitchen table where we can all sit down and eat together and we can do our homework together, because I go to school also," Reed said. "So the kitchen table's going to be a big thing for us."
Currently an individual-support worker for Pineland Behavioral Health, she is going to school to become an emergency medical technician.
No, her house payments will not be less than the apartment rent.
"Well, it's a little bit more, but it will be mine, so it won't matter," Reed said.
One of the volunteers who helped build Reed's home was her friend Kaisha Burroughs, who racked up equity hours required for the kickoff of her own home's construction.
More homes ahead
Reed's house is the 54th that Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County has assigned to a homeowner, and Burroughs' is the 57th. Meanwhile, construction is just getting started for House 55 on Jef Road in Statesboro. House 56 will be a "recycled house," in other words not new but thoroughly refurbished, at Len Tenner Court, also within Statesboro. Work there will actually be completed next, Jenkins said.
Beyond those, Houses 58 and 59 are planned to be built side-by-side on Greene Street, the street where the first local Habitat house was built. Habitat for Humanity, which describes itself as a Christian housing ministry, was founded in Georgia 43 years ago and now operates on six continents.
In its 28 years so far, the Bulloch County chapter has averaged placing families in two homes a year, so some acceleration is now becoming apparent.
"They brought me in to increase capacity, so I'm doing what they asked," said Jenkins, who was hired as executive director a little over a year ago.
Jessica Roper, managing the construction of House 57, is a Georgia Southern University student majoring in construction management and interning with Habitat. She works under the guidance of the Habitat chapter's regular construction manager, Lynn Carper.
Ogeechee Technical College construction, HVAC and electrical students also frequently work on the jobsites. So do students from Georgia Southern's programs that encourage volunteerism, but the distance to Burroughs' site limits their available hours, so other volunteers are needed, Jenkins said.
Volunteer construction hours on House 57 will be 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. For info or assignment as volunteers, call Marcus Toole, community relations coordinator, at (912) 489-2076, extension 203.