One week after receiving the keys and ownership of Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County’s 50th completed home, Randy Holman still had some unpacking to do.
That, of course, isn’t unusual for a new homeowner. But unlike many buyers who find an existing home on the private market, Holman literally helped build the place, and also helped build several other homes and worked at the Habitat ReStore as a volunteer. Now he will make monthly house payments, but on an interest-free mortgage, a portion of which will be forgiven if he makes timely payments.
Sitting Friday in the well-furnished little den area of his new 1,050-square-foot, three-bedroom wood-frame house on Mikell Street, he talked about pride and gratitude.
“It’s not the Taj Mahal or anything, but you know, it’s my castle, it’s my home, and I’m proud of it, I’m grateful for it, and I thank God for Habitat, the people who support Habitat, the people who donate their money, their time” Holman said.
Holman, 56, never owned a home before. He moved to Statesboro almost 13 years ago and has worked at the Briggs & Stratton engine factory for more than 12. He works night shift as a machine operator, machining parts for use in the next day’s production run.
A single father, Holman will share his home with his son Quincy, 8. While the house was being completed and through his father’s move, Quincy was staying with relatives in Metter and started third grade there, but he previously attended Mattie Lively Elementary School in Statesboro.
“I’m going to take care of it, too,” Holman said of his new house. “I hope to live long enough to pay for it, but after that, it’s Quincy’s. At least he’ll have a roof over his head, some place he can go and say ‘Dad did this for me,’ you know. … I don’t think I’ll ever be a millionaire or whatever, but at least I did something that my children, even the older ones can say, ‘Dad, he did something to be proud of.’”
His two older children, Alexander and Tresca, are in their early 20s and live in South Carolina. But Quincy previously lived with his father in a rented two-bedroom apartment house, which wasn’t in good shape, in another area of Statesboro.
The cost of buying
Holman had looked into home ownership, but found that with many homes on the market he could expect mortgage payments of $700 to $900 a month.
“I mean, I could have probably did it, but then I wouldn’t have much of a lifestyle after that,” he said. “It would have been a struggle. All I would have been doing is just paying the mortgage and stuff and not living, you know.
“With a Habitat house I can afford it, still have money in my pocket,” Holman said. “It’s a blessing for a person like me. This is what I asked God for. I prayed for that, some place I could afford.”
Holman read in the newspaper about two years ago that Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County was taking applications, and started the process. His Habitat mortgage payment will be less than his previous rent, he said.
Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that describes itself as a Christian housing ministry, was founded in Georgia 40 years ago and now operates on six continents. The Bulloch County chapter has been in existence 25 years, and now builds, or occasionally rebuilds, two homes per year.
Habitat requires that residents contribute “sweat equity” to the organization and in the construction of their homes. Previously 500 hours was required, but 250 hours is now required.
“We’ve backed it off with the reality of single parents trying to keep a job and be financially responsible and do their volunteer time,” said local Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Linda Christy.
Of the 250 hours, 100 must be in home construction, and 90 must be completed before work begins on the prospective buyer’s own home, Christy said. The would-be homeowners also get credit for about 20 hours spent in required financial planning courses.
Holman greatly exceeded the 250-hour minimum. He said he is sure he has done more than 1,000 hours of volunteer work with Habitat. His first task was painting at House 47, and his own house was the fourth he has helped build.
Like many prospective homeowners, he also volunteered at the ReStore. He assisted customers and picked up and delivered items such as furniture.
A second ‘job’
After finishing a shift at Briggs around 6:30 a.m., he would sometimes begin Habitat work at 8 a.m. and get his rest in the late afternoon.
“I took it like a second job,” Holman said.
But it was a kind of work he enjoys.
“You had a lot of good volunteers come in, people that are putting their time and effort into it,” he said. “It was a pleasure, you know.”
Ogeechee Technical College construction management instructor Charles Collins and his students did a lot of work on the house, and OTC electrical systems instructor Loren Cranford did the wiring, Christy said. Some Georgia Southern University engineering and construction management students also worked on the home.
Holman said he wanted to express his gratitude to these volunteers and also to Habitat Bulloch Construction Manager Jeffry Roberson and especially to Allen Webb, the organization’s longest-serving construction volunteer.
Webb, who is Christy’s father, is 88 and continues to work on the houses. He has worked on every house since the second one built by the local Habitat, Christy said.
“He really impressed me,” Holman said.
Holman has 25 years to pay off his home. An appraiser valued House 50 at about $70,000, so that was the purchase price, Christy said. However, Holman’s primary mortgage was for $55,000. The remaining $15,000 is in what Habitat calls a “soft second mortgage” and will be forgiven at the rate of $1,000 a year as long as he makes timely payments.
“When they make those mortgage payments, that money comes back to us to build more houses in the local area,” Christy said.
House 50 sponsors
House 50 was built as a Memorial House in memory of Sally Thompson and her stepson David Thompson, with the sponsorship by Don Thompson, who was Sally’s husband and David’s father. Don Thompson now lives in Arizona, but he and Sally were longtime Habitat Bulloch volunteers.
The Kiwanis Club of Statesboro also sponsored House 50 and helped Habitat purchase the site.
A number of volunteers and contributors attended the dedication of Holman’s home Aug. 6. They held hands in Holman’s kitchen as Pastor Lisa DeLoach of City of David Worship Assembly led a prayer of blessing.
Bob Mikell, Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County president since July 1, is also involved in the revitalization drive for South Main Street and surrounding neighborhoods, known as the Blue Mile. Although much of the talk is about streetscapes and park space and attracting businesses, the Blue Mile plan, which has made Statesboro one of eight national finalists in the America’s Best Communities competition, also highlights efforts to bring in new residents.
“We are happy to partner with the city to be part of the Blue Mile revitalization program, which is about providing a revitalization of this core, this historic neighborhood of Statesboro, with people like Mr. Randy and homes like this, and providing hope and quality, affordable housing right in the center of Statesboro,” Mikell said during the dedication.
House 51, on the corner of Institute and Mikell streets and next-door to Holman’s new home, is scheduled for dedication Sunday, Aug. 21, at 2 p.m.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.