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Family gets a new start in Habitat home in county
Regina Duncan (second from left), holding the family dog, Lucky, stands in front of her new home on Sunday with her children, Allen Dalton (left), and Elise Dalton (second from right), and Rod McGarry, president of the Habitat of Martinsville Henry County Board. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
Regina Duncan and her children are home for Christmas — literally.
On Sunday, a dedication ceremony was held for Duncan’s Habitat for Humanity home. As family members and friends looked on, Duncan accepted a Bible from Habitat and signed an agreement with it for the home in on Pinewood Lane in the Sanville area of Henry County.
She choked back tears as she hugged Rod McGarry, president of the board of Habitat for Humanity of Martinsville and Henry County.
“I want to thank Habitat,” Duncan said. She had not known about the organization, but Habitat “found me. It’s nice to know there are things like that in the community.”
Duncan had owned a home before with her first husband. But after her 14-year marriage ended, she and her two children lived in an apartment in Collinsville, “barely making it,” she said. “I’m thankful to be out of there.”
“I’ve been on the good side and the hard side” of life, she added.
Duncan has worked in housekeeping at Kings Grant Retirement Community for six years. The executive director there, Becky Farrar, heard a program on Habitat by its executive director, Nancy Moore, and suggested Duncan for the program.
Habitat helps people in need of decent housing, who are willing to partner with the organization and who are able to pay.
Duncan wanted to live in the Sanville area, and Habitat found a house in foreclosure that fit Duncan’s needs. Habitat bought the house and when Duncan completes 200 hours of service, the home will be deeded to her, Moore said, adding that the goal is for that to happen in about a year.
Duncan will continue to make payments on the home, Moore said.
The four-bedroom, two-bath home was in good condition, needing only updated heating and air conditioning systems and a new kitchen sink, Moore said. Whirlpool donated a refrigerator.
The Duncan home illustrates Habitat’s new direction. In the past, it bought property and used volunteers and residents’ “sweat equity” (labor) to build new houses.
Now, Moore said, there are so many vacant homes in the area that it makes more sense to buy and renovate them for the residents.
In the past eight years Moore has been with Habitat, the group built one house a year. This year, it has placed three families in homes that were renovated rather than built from scratch, she said.
“We get a lot more people in homes,” she said, and it also gets vacant homes off the market. In addition, foreclosures are less expensive so Habitat can serve people with lower incomes, she added.
Habitat currently is renovating two houses in Martinsville, and has residents waiting for them to be completed. One house is being rehabbed with federal funds from a neighborhood stabilization program, so skilled tradesmen who previously volunteered with Habitat can be paid for their work, Moore said.
The process starts with a person coming to Habitat for help, Moore said. People usually find out about the organization through the press, work of mouth and area churches.
The potential homeowners have to go through preliminary applications, credit checks, a family selection committee and then a full Habitat application before they can be accepted for the program, Moore said. Once that happens, Habitat determines where the person wants to live and begins looking for a suitable home.
In the cases of renovations, there often is no “sweat equity” for the future homeowners. So Moore said the organization gets creative on how to fill the necessary hours of commitment required by the Habitat contract.
To do that, Duncan, her daughter and her cousin’s daughter worked at Habitat’s booth at the Oktoberfest celebration in Martinsville last fall, she took a financial management class through the United Way, and she has stuffed envelopes for Habitat mailings, she said.
She and her children — Allen Dalton, 13, and Elise Dalton, 14 — moved into the home in October. Now, it is decorated for Christmas, with a tree, stockings and wreath all in place. Their puppy — Lucky — slept as Sunday’s brief ceremony was conducted in the living room. A horseshoe, the symbol of luck, hangs over the front door.
“I’m extremely happy,” Duncan said.