Joyce Baldwin and her teenage son, Jordan, have lived in their own home for over 21 years — the second house in Bulloch County built by Habitat for Humanity. It's a dream Randy Holman Jr. and his 7-year-old son, Quincy, hope to live for themselves as they await construction of Bulloch County's 50th house — the one that will be their home.
House 50, to be built on East Olliff Street, will also be designated the Sally and David Thompson Memorial House, said Marcus Toole, resource development coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County.
"Long-time Habitat Bulloch volunteers Dr. Don and Sally Thompson lost their son David last December, and then Sally passed away on September 17 this year," he said.
The couple had already decided to donate part of David Thompson's estate to Habitat in order help build House 50 as a memorial for their son. Now, Don Thompson wants to make the home a memorial for both his late wife and son, Toole said.
That's not the only thing special about the home that Holman and his son will help build. Don Thompson is a former dean at Georgia Southern University, and his son was an alumnus of GSU, so "it is only fitting that House 50 would also be designated as an 'Eagle Build,'" meaning much of the construction will be performed by the university's students and faculty, Toole said.
Habitat Executive Director Linda Christy said the organization is partnering with GSU's construction management department to put together the project management team for the home.
Building their own homes
Future owners are required to help build their Habitat for Humanity homes in order to qualify to own them. Baldwin remembers, and still appreciates, working on her own Maple Street home.
When her son, Jordan, was born, now 15 years old, he came home to that house, where she lived with her daughters, who are now adults. The family grew in that home, she said.
"It was fun. I was fine with (helping with construction) until they got on the roof," she said. "Helping gave me a closer connection. I can say, 'I helped put that beam in,' and, 'I painted that.'"
Baldwin remembers being involved in "everything from the ground up — groundbreaking, framing, all of it."
Now, 21 years later, she owns the home.
"It feels fantastic. I had been renting for 15 years," she said. "There's nothing like paying for a house that will be yours."
Holman said he looks forward to that feeling. It makes a difference to invest in repairs and improvements when the home will belong to you, not a landlord, he said.
He said his son can't wait to get started and asks daily when they can move in.
"I thank God for Habitat," the single father said. "I'm grateful to have an affordable home, being on a tight budget."
And he doesn't mind putting in the work to help construct the house.
"I can say, 'I helped build this,'" he said.
It shouldn't be long before construction of Habit House 50 gets under way.
Land clearing on the East Olliff Street lot should begin this month, with an official groundbreaking ceremony to be scheduled sometime in late January, when GSU students return from spring break, Toole said.
Raising the funds
While the bulk of funding for House 50 is gifted by family and friends of Sally and David Thompson, additional funding for the house was raised at a recent breakfast hosted by Fordham's Farmhouse restaurant and Habitat for Humanity of Bulloch County's board of directors. So far, $35,000 has been raised, Toole said.
In addition to being a fundraiser, the breakfast also served as an awards ceremony, said Arliesha Lovett, manager of Spike's ReStore, the nonprofit store on East Vine Street where people can buy and donate furniture, building materials, household appliances and much more, with proceeds benefiting the local Habitat organization.
"The board breakfast did double duty because Habitat Bulloch took the opportunity to present Mr. Allen Webb with a lifetime achievement award," she said.
Webb has volunteered for 23 years as construction supervisor and as a member of the board of directors. He is currently working on his 47th house with Habitat Bulloch.
At the breakfast, Christy presented Webb a plaque with a silver hammer on it, inscribed with the words "47 Houses and Counting."
"Mr. Allen is already looking forward to mentoring some GSU construction management seniors on House 50," Toole said.
Baldwin said she will forever be grateful for Habitat for Humanity.
"People who work with Habitat have really big hearts," she said, adding that she developed friendships with staff members with whom she stays in touch and that she shops at Spike's ReStore still today.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.