Under Their Own Roofs

Two new Habitat for Humanity homes blessed, turned over to owners.

Shirley Sheffield receives the keys to her new Habitat For Humanity home from Dave Layman, the president/CEO of Habitat For Humanity of Marion County. [Bruce Ackerman/OG]

After faithful hours of volunteering, educational programs and assistance in construction, two members of Habitat for Humanity’s homeownership program stepped into their new homes recently.

On July 9, after holding house blessings, Habitat for Humanity handed over the house keys to Ed Henderson and Shirley Sheffield.

The blessings began at Henderson’s house and moved to Sheffield’s nearby. The jubilant crowd encircled Henderson as he choked up after receiving the keys to his new home. After being selected for the program two years ago, he suffered a disabling injury which stopped his income stream and rendered him ineligible for the program.

“I’m so grateful. I’m so happy,” Henderson, who was eventually able to requalify, repeated after getting his keys.

The celebration at Sheffield’s house was hardly less emotional as the first local Habitat homeowner, Audrey Clark, handed the keys to her best friend. Clark moved into her house in November 1990 and thanks God for the opportunity she has had to raise her children and friends’ children in her own home. Clark encouraged Sheffield to apply for the program and helped her along the way.

Shirley Sheffield, left, gets a hug from her best friend, Audrey Clark, right, who was the first Habitat For Humanity of Marion County homeowner in November 1990. [Bruce Ackerman/OG]

Sheffield stood under her porch awning, in front of the taupe-colored siding she had picked out, beaming as she received her key and Bible.

“I feel real good,” she said.

About thirty members of the community joined in the house blessings.

Many of those who attended are volunteers called Golden Hammers—they build the houses for free alongside Habitat for Humanity staff. More than 250 volunteers worked on Henderson’s house and about 300 on Sheffield’s. Sheffield’s is the 198th house built by the organization, according to Ken Harper, a Golden Hammer and their resident electrician.

Harper started volunteering with the homeownership program on house number 30 in 1997.

“The Golden Hammers are so dedicated,” said Habitat board Chairwoman Elizabeth Chryst. “They love it. They’re volunteers, you understand, they’re volunteers! They put in hours like you and I do in our day job. They love it though… it’s an amazing program.”

Edward Henderson, a new Habitat For Humanity of Marion County homeowner, left, becomes emotional as Dave Layman presents him with his new home. [Bruce Ackerman/OG]

The homeownership program offers its participants a new home and the tools to take care of it. One of the requirements is to complete credit counseling, Chryst said.

“And that could be as simple as, ‘Here’s how you write a check,’” she said.

Homeowners also must make a down payment and are responsible for monthly mortgage payments. Each is also required to put in several hundred hours of “sweat equity” during construction.

“They started me on a saving account on my house, and if anything goes wrong, I got the money—I got over a thousand dollars in savings,” Henderson said as his voice broke. “I’ve never owned a savings (account).”

As Henderson accepted the keys, Sandy McBride, owner of Gator Joe’s Beach Bar & Grill, reflected on why he helps support the program.

“Because it’s a hand up, not a hand-out,” said McBride. Henderson’s was the fourth habitat house sponsored by Gator Joe’s.

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